It’s now just one month until the opening of the transfer window, and another hectic period during which Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger will be under considerable pressure to spend. Arsenal endured their worse start to a league season after 12 games for 32 years amid an all-too familiar injury crisis that exacerbated Wenger’s failure to strengthen key areas of his squad adequately over the summer. The club’s second-largest shareholder Alisher Usmanov has been among those to voice their criticism of Wenger, while a banner at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday addressed read: “Thanks for the memories, but it’s time to say goodbye.”
The key problem so far this campaign has been with a defense that was left with just six senior players to fill four positions. With Laurent Koscielny making his return to the squad in the win over West Brom on Saturday and Mathieu Debuchy set to be back before the end of December, Wenger recently suggested that his squad was strong enough. However, he reaffirmed that he will be on the lookout for at least one addition, although cautioned that getting the right player would not be easy.
“In January we will, of course, try to get at least one body in,” he said at his press conference last Friday. “I would like to remind you that to buy football players is not to go into a supermarket and just say: ‘I want to buy a right-back or a center-back,’ it’s to find the right quality. If you go out tomorrow, you will see that everybody looks for the same positions everywhere. It’s not as simple as it looks. In January, it is even more difficult because players are even less available than in June or July. But we will try to be creative and have one or two good ideas.”
One of the players for which Arsenal would face huge competition is Mats Hummels. The Borussia Dortmund center-back has been regularly linked with Arsenal as well as Manchester United in recent weeks. Dortmund’s woeful start to the Bundesliga season has increased the belief that the German World Cup winner will become the latest big-name player to leave Jurgen Klopp’s squad. That remains an unlikely prospect in January, while the Daily Mail reports that United are ahead of Arsenal in the race, regardless.
According to the tabloid, if Arsenal do miss out on Hummels they will instead make an £8 million bid for Ipswich Town’s highly rated young defender Tyrone Mings. The 21-year-old has impressed for Ipswich in the Championship this season, yet he has done so as a left-back and would be unlikely to offer Arsenal an immediate boost at center-back.
Another position in which Arsenal have been lacking through the first third of the season has been in the continually problematic defensive midfield slot. Captain Mikel Arteta is again out with injury, and both he and Mathieu Flamini have failed to convince that they can provide a real presence against top opposition.
Having been strongly linked throughout the summer, Sami Khedira’s name continues to be mentioned as a possible solution in January. Khedira’s contract at Real Madrid is set to expire next summer, although coach Carlo Ancelotti has stated that the Germany international will not be allowed to leave in January. Still, the Daily Mirror has suggested that Madrid’s interest in signing Brazilian midfielder Lucas Silva may change that stance.
Madrid-based sports daily Marca has reported that a deal to take the Cruzeiro man to the Bernabeu is all-but done, with the only aspect still to be decided being whether he arrives in January or in June. It is a surprise then that The Sun has reported on Monday that Arsenal will try to “hijack” Madrid’s deal for the 21-year-old. It is also doubtful that Silva offers the solution to Arsenal’s problems, given that he is more of a passer than a physical presence in midfield.
According to the Daily Express, Arsenal could also soon be in contact with Real Madrid over their forward Karim Benzema. Citing stories in Spain, the Express reports that Ancelotti is open to the prospect of selling the France international, and Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool are all said to be interested. With no like-for-like alternative in Madrid’s squad, however, it is difficult to imagine Benzema departing anytime soon.