An injury to Mikel Arteta has cast fresh light upon Arsenal’s defensive midfield options, with speculation continuing that Arsene Wenger will venture back into the transfer market in January. Arteta is set to miss around three weeks with a calf injury, leaving Mathieu Flamini as the only established option to fill the role at the base of Arsenal’s midfield, after Wenger, to much criticism, failed to bolster that area of his squad in the summer.
Both Arteta and Flamini have endured difficult starts to the season. Arteta’s lack of athleticism and positional awareness was exposed in a chastening defeat to Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago, and Flamini was at fault for Tottenham’s goal in Saturday’s north London derby. While Wenger has also discussed the possibility of the now fit again Abou Diaby moving into a defensive midfield role, his injury record in recent years means it would undoubtedly be a risk to rely on the France international.
There continues to be speculation that Wenger will instead make a fresh approach for Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira. The German World Cup winner was reportedly the subject of an approach from the Gunners in the last transfer window, but his salary demands prevented the interest going any further. However, Spanish outlet Fichajes.net has reported that Wenger has made signing Khedira in January a priority.
Khedira is in the final year of his contract with the European champions and in the summer declined to extend his deal. He has made just two substitute appearances this season before suffering an injury that is expected to keep him on the sidelines until later this month. According to Madrid-based sports daily Marca, Khedira has yet to clarify his future plans to the club, but it is not believed he has agreed anything with Arsenal or any of the other interest parties, which are thought to include Bayern Munich.
But Khedira is not the only midfielder linked with Arsenal of late. The Daily Mirror reports that Arsenal, along with Everton, are monitoring Fabian Delph’s situation at Aston Villa. Delph’s stock has risen at the start of the season having impressed on his first England start in a Euro 2016 qualifying win in Switzerland last month. Like Khedira, Delph, 24, is currently set to be out of contract next summer and could be targeted for a cut-price transfer in January or leave for nothing at the end of the season.
Another Premier League midfielder also appears to be on Arsenal’s radar. Newcastle United’s tough-tackling Ivorian Cheick Tiote has long been linked with a move to the Emirates and he has now revealed that he is eager for a change of scenery and that Arsenal have been in contact.
“I want to leave,” he told media in the Ivory Coast, according to the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. “I’ve spent four years with Newcastle. I think I have reached a stage where it’s maybe time to look elsewhere for a new challenge. I will focus on upcoming games and let’s see what happens between now and December. It is true there were contacts for me from Arsenal and a club in Russia. I’d prefer to stay in England.”
As well as defensive midfield, the other area of Arsenal’s squad obviously in need of bolstering is in defense. Injuries to Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal mean Arsenal currently have just four fit, senior, defenders. Strangely, though, the Daily Mirror’s latest reported target for the Gunners is in the one defensive position where Arsenal do have adequate cover, left-back. According to the tabloid, Arsenal are considering a January transfer for Malaga’s Vitorino Antunes, who is said to have a release clause of just £2.5 million. The 27-year-old Portugal international was signed by Malaga as a replacement for Monreal, who is now in the backup role to Kieran Gibbs at the Emirates.