After a mixed start to the season, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has yet to cast off the criticism of an underwhelming transfer window. The Gunners signed only goalkeeper Petr Cech in the summer, meaning they were the only club in Europe’s top leagues not to bring in a single outfield player. While, as Wenger is always keen to point out, transfer activity is not the only factor that makes a strong team, Arsenal’s failure to strengthen certain areas has already been exposed.
Most apparent has been the lack of strength up front. There was a strong feeling among many over the summer that Arsenal needed an upgrade in the central striker role, yet, despite strong links with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Wenger finished the transfer window again dependent on Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. Both, though, have so far been less than clinical in front of goal, scoring a combined three goals in 11 Premier League appearances. Giroud also got sent off in a 2-1 Champions League defeat to Dinamo Zagreb last week.
It is not surprising then that Arsenal are linked with numerous strikers ahead of the reopening of the transfer window in January. According to a story in the Daily Mirror, Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi is one of the forwards Arsenal are thought to be chasing. The 22-year-old finished as the top scorer in Serie A last season with 22 goals, and got off the mark this campaign against Chievo on Sunday. He is a player that truly comes alive in the penalty box, which could be what Arsenal need, although Wenger typically prefers forwards who provide a more all-round contribution. He is also unlikely to come cheap.
The Sunday People reports on another possible target, suggesting that Arsenal are at the front of the queue for £10 million-rated Senegal striker Moussa Konate. After a strong first season at Swiss club Sion last term, the 22-year-old has started this campaign in red-hot form, firing seven goals in 10 league and Europa League games. According to his agent, there is a long list of clubs impressed with his talents.
“Lots of English clubs are interested in Moussa -- Chelsea and Arsenal scouts are keeping an eye on him --- but he is not obsessed with the Premier League and will consider good offers from Germany, Spain or England,” Antoine Issa Kossoko said. “Hannover, Mainz and Bruges were keen on him this summer, offering up to £6m. But Sion said they would not sell for less than £10m.”
The other area of Arsenal’s squad perhaps most in need of strengthening is in the defensive midfield position. While Francis Coquelin has again been a steadying presence in front of the back four, there is little in the way of backup -- a point shown when Mikel Arteta stepped in for Coquelin in Arsenal’s shock loss in Zagreb.
Arsenal have often been credited with an interest in young Portugal holding midfielder William Carvalho in recent transfer windows and that speculation has been reignited this week by the Daily Express, citing reports coming out of Italy. The British tabloid states that the Sporting Lisbon man would cost £25 million. Carvalho, 23, was elected Player of the Tournament at this summer’s European Under-21 Championship and has also represented the senior Portugal side on 13 occasions.
A reported target that seems somewhat irrational is Isco. The Spain international has faced a battle with James Rodríguez for a starting berth at Real Madrid this season, leading to speculation that he could be tempted by a move. As well as Arsenal, Manchester City and Juventus have been linked with a transfer. Given that he plays in a creative midfield role that Arsenal have well covered by the likes of Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and others, it would be very odd for Wenger to opt to spend big on the gifted former Malaga man. And Isco has even denied any problems at the Bernabeu.
“I'm working to be at 100 percent and can't complain about the minutes I'm getting,” he said, according to Spanish publication Sport. “I know I have to improve [at goalscoring] and net more, but I'm not worried about it either. One will come in the next few matches.”