Arsenal received a huge morale boost by ending their woeful road record against the Premier League’s big guns on Sunday, but manager Arsene Wenger has insisted that a 2-0 victory at Manchester City hasn’t altered his intent to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window.
The win at the home of the champions lifted Arsenal into fifth place in the Premier League and came courtesy of a supreme defensive performance. But having previously stressed that Mathieu Debuchy’s dislocated shoulder, which will rule the French right-back out for three months, means signing a defender this month is a priority, Wenger has no plans to alter his view. However, he again cautioned that getting the player he wants will be far from straightforward.
“We are still looking, yes,” he said at his post-match press conference at the Etihad Stadium. “Unfortunately no [we haven’t made any progress], but if you have a good idea you can text me.”
Speaking ahead of the fixture, Wenger outlined the urgency of Arsenal’s situation, with 19-year-old Calum Chambers and left-back Nacho Monreal now providing the only cover for center-backs Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
"Of course we have made enquiries and then you have a second handicap of who wants to sell their best players, especially a central defender, in the middle of the season,” he said, reports Arsenal’s official website. “They say, 'OK, come back in June or July and maybe yes'. We can [cope] but we have now lost Debuchy, who could play centre back… [Kieran] Gibbs as well has been out, of course if we have another injury or two we will struggle. It's risky. It's too risky.”
It appears that Arsenal could be making progress on one of their targets. Villarreal’s Brazilian center-back Gabriel Paulista has suggested that there have been talks about a transfer to the Emirates Stadium with his agent and that he would not be averse to making the move.
“Whether I go to Arsenal or stay at Villarreal, I won’t lose my head,” he said on Saturday, reports The Guardian. “I’m very calm. My head is at Villarreal and I’m very focused. My agent is working on making sure I continue being calm.”
The 24-year-old joined Villarreal from Vitória in the summer of 2013 and has established himself at the La Liga club this season. According to Spanish soccer expert, Guillem Balague, Arsenal will have to pay up his 20 million euros (£15.3 million) release clause in order to secure his services. Obtaining a work permit for a player as yet uncapped by Brazil may also be a significant issue for Arsenal.
The Daily Mirror suggests that is why Arsenal are also monitoring Argentina international defender Nicolás Otamendi. The 26-year-old is still in his first season with the Spanish club, having been signed from Porto last January but loaned to Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro as at the time they had no more slots for a non-EU player. His performances in Valencia’s fine season, though, mean his price tag has likely been pushed significantly beyond what Arsenal will deem acceptable. Balague is also among those reporting that Manchester United have had an offer of 35 million euros (27 million) rejected by Villarreal. That fee would already, by some distance, exceed the highest figure Wenger has ever paid for a defender.
The fee will likely be even steeper were Arsenal to make a long-mooted move for Borussia Dortmund’s World-Cup-winning center-back Mats Hummels. Dortmund’s woeful start to the season, which leaves them lying in the Bundesliga relegation zone, has continued to fuel rumors that he could be lured by a transfer to Arsenal or Manchester United in January. But the 26-year-old has again brushed away the speculation and suggested that even the absence of Champions League action next season would not lead him to pushing for a move.
“All those rumors are an issue I have never commented about,” he told German publication Die Welt. “I've always handled it that way in the past, and I will continue to do so."
Fundamentally, I don't need to play Champions League to be happy. I don't know if others see that differently."