Arsenal continued what could be a season to remember with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday to take the holders through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. Currently top of the Premier League and with a Champions League Round of 16 matchup to come next month, Arsenal have much to look forward to. But with such success will come more fixtures and a greater demand on a squad that has already been hit hard by injury.
The biggest concern currently comes in midfield, where Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky all remain sidelined. It is no surprise, therefore, that Arsenal have been keen to move quickly in the January transfer window to strengthen their options with the proposed signing of Basel’s Mohamed Elneny. The 23-year-old Egypt international has been expected to complete a £7 million transfer to the Emirates Stadium. And, although there appears to have been a setback, Wenger commented before the match with Sunderland that he expects a deal to be completed imminently.
“It's complicated a little bit but we work hard on it,” he said. “I hope in the next two or three days we get to the end of it.”
The bigger question is whether Elneny will be the only player to boost Arsenal’s ranks during the current transfer period. Speaking at the same time, Wenger suggested that more arrivals could follow. However, talking after the win over Sunderland, secured by goals from Joel Campbell, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman hinted that one newcomer might be sufficient.
“I believe that the next step is to get Rosicky back, Welbeck back, Sanchez back, Wilshere back and maybe we will get one player in,” he said. “Overall, I think if we have no new injuries I’m not worried. If we had the same number of injuries we would be a bit short.”
Still, the name of a long-standing Arsenal target has again resurfaced in recent days. Grzegorz Krychowiak was strongly linked with the Gunners last summer, before pledging his commitment to Sevilla, first verbally and then officially by inking a new contract in November. And the Polish defensive midfielder recently brushed off continued talk of a move to Arsenal.
“I've heard about Arsenal, but I leave it to my agent,” he told Four Four Two magazine. “I trust him and he's the one who deals with that kind of the stuff. I can’t think about things like that. I have to keep my mind free of any distraction and just focus on doing my job for Sevilla.”
Any deal appears highly unlikely in January. Not only has his buyout clause been increased in his new contract to 45 million euros (£34 million), but he would be cup-tied for the rest of Arsenal’s Champions League campaign.
Two more options have been proposed by the Daily Star. The tabloid claims that Arsenal are pursuing a £37 million move for Borussia Monchengladbach’s talented Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka, as well as a £15 million transfer for Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot.
Xhaka, 23, has been a regular for both Gladbach and Switzerland for several seasons, having been snapped up from Basel in 2012. It is, though, extremely difficult to envisage Wenger opting to pay such a lofty fee, which would be just shy of the club record transfer of Mesut Özil, in January.
Rabiot, meanwhile, is a name that has been mentioned repeatedly in connection with a transfer to Arsenal. While clearly gifted, the 20-year-old has struggled to hold down a regular place in the starting lineup at French champions PSG. Last month he made it clear that he would be seeking a loan move in January should he lose his place in the side again — comments which angered manager Laurent Blanc. Given that PSG are desperate to make a major breakthrough in the Champion League this season, it is unlikely that they would allow a valuable player to leave midway through the campaign, when they would have little chance to replace him.