Arsenal remain at the Premier League summit after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with West Brom, but no-one at the club is yet getting carried away with the club’s fine start to the season. Arsene Wenger has spoken of the need to keep things in perspective in what are still the premature stages of long season. In order to compete over the long run, Wenger is likely to be aware that, while he is set to be boosted by players returning to fitness in the coming weeks, his squad is still light in certain areas.
The noticeable tension that pervades every time Olivier Giroud goes to the ground clutching some part of his body speaks volumes for how much reliance there is on the striker and the doubts about what lies in reserve. Currently Nicklas Bendtner is the only established alternative to the France international. While Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski will provide further options upon return from injury, neither is at their best when leading the line.
Wenger failed with attempted transfers for Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain in the summer and there continues to be reports of interest in Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. The France international has had a tough start to the season, having received jeers from his home fans on more than one occasion. Despite starting all eight of his club’s La Liga, he has scored just twice, although he has also found the net twice in the Champions League.
But the Sunday People believes the club has now lost faith in Benzema to a degree where they have instructed his representatives to find a new club. In recent days Madrid have also been linked with a replacement, in Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.
It is unlikely, however, that Madrid will be prepared to replace Benzema in January. Most obviously, Aguero would be cup-tied for the Champions League and Benzema would be in the same position were he to move to the Emirates Stadium. The Sunday People’s estimated valuation of the 25-year-old of £17 million also appears unrealistically low, given that Higuain was sold for over £30 million this summer.
Elsewhere, the Gunners are one of the clubs to be linked with PSV Eindhoven’s exciting young forward Zakaria Bakkali. The 17-year-old, who has scored three goals this season playing on the right of a front three, has sparked much interest given that his contract runs only until the summer of 2015. However, Talksport reports that PSV are poised to tie him down to a long-term deal when he turns 18 in January and is then allowed to sign a contract for longer than three years.
Wenger may also decide that he needs to strengthen defensively in January. The club has just three established center-backs on their books and were linked to several targets over the summer. One of those linked with a move to Arsenal, Jonas Olsson, has now claimed that he remained focus on West Brom despite the rumors over the summer.
“I don’t want to comment further on rumors,” he said, according to the Daily Mirror. “In the window there is always a link to this and that. Sometimes it is true, sometimes you don’t hear anymore, sometimes it is close, sometimes it is not.
“Either way it is gone -- I signed a contract last autumn and I would not have agreed a four-year deal if I was not happy. I focus on where I am and my obligation to do my very best.”
There were also plenty of rumors late in the summer transfer window that Arsenal were poised to make an approach for Schalke’s attacking midfield prodigy Julian Draxler. Of course, that was before the Gunners landed fellow-German creator Mesut Ozil in a club-record deal.
Despite Ozil’s capture, speculation has persisted that Arsenal remain keen on the 20-year-old. Schalke have consistently claimed that they are not ready to sell the player and general manager Horst Heldt has reiterated that the situations remains the same ahead of the January transfer window.
“We will retain Draxler,” he said, according to TalkSport. “There will be no dramas this winter.”