All the talk in recent days has been of Arsene Wenger’s desire to add to his striking ranks at Arsenal. But having failed in his repeated attempts to pries David Villa away from Barcelona, events in the clash against Liverpool on Wednesday have persuaded Wenger to instead focus on recruiting a defender before the transfer window slams shut.
“Yes. That’s how quickly football changes,” Wenger responded when asked about whether he was now in the market for a defender, according to TalkSport.
"Three days ago people told me we need strikers. Now, this time, we’re speaking about defenders.
“We’ll see what we can do.”
Kieran Gibbs suffered a thigh injury in the 2-2 draw and looks set to be ruled out for at least three weeks. With Andre Santos the club’s only other established left-back, it would be understandable were Wenger to rush out into the final day scramble for signings.
Santos, it would be fair to say, has not exactly covered himself in glory since joining from Fenerbahce in the summer of 2011. A threat going forward, he has been a continued liability at the back and further earned scorn from Arsenal supporters when he exchanged shirts with ex-Gunner Robin van Persie as the teams walked off for half-time during the clash with Manchester United earlier this season.
But while Santos has been the central target of dismay, the rest of Arsenal’s defense has also been suspect, with Per Mertesacker, in particular, receiving plenty of criticism. One solution to cover for the injured Gibbs, would be to switch Thomas Vermaelen to left-back, where he has often been deployed for Belgium and for Arsenal earlier this season.
That would leave Arsenal short in the middle and so it may be that Wenger instead opts to go all out to sign a central defender. There promises to be plenty of speculation in the closing hours of the January transfer window.
Here are six players that Wenger could target:
Nicolas N’Koulou (Marseille)
The 22-year-old central defender has reportedly agreed with Marseille that he can leave the club at the end of the season. But Arsenal, who are said to have been scouting the Cameroon international for some time, could yet look to bring forward his departure. Goal.com claims that a deal remains a possibility.
Angelo Ogbonna (Torino)
Wenger was recently cited by the Daily Mirror as an admirer of the 24-year-old Italy international. A big move is seen as a matter of when rather than if, with a number of Europe’s top clubs circling the central defender. However, recent surgery on a hernia could make a move unlikely this month.
Ashley Williams (Swansea)
It was recently reported that Arsenal and Liverpool were set to go head-to-head for the central defender in summer. The Wales international has impressed since Swansea’s return to the top flight, but it would surely take a massive offer to lure him away from a side that is in a cup final and going strong in the Premier League.
Jetro Willems (PSV Eindhoven)
This is a signing that could fall into both a player to fill Arsenal’s immediate needs as well as being one for the future. Willems, 18, came to the attention as the left-back for the Netherlands in Euro 2012. While, along with his teammates, he didn’t have the greatest of tournaments, he certainly showed that he has a huge upside. Arsenal were linked with a January move for the PSV Eindhoven man late last year.
Stopilla Sunzu (TP Mazembe)
Arsenal were strongly linked to the Zambia international before Reading appeared to emerge as front-runners for the central defender when they took him on trial earlier this month. It is believed that negotiations are still ongoing between TP Mazembe and Reading, although Arsenal could yet step in. The 23-year-old was shortlisted for last year’s African Player of the Year on the back of his performances in helping Zambia to the African Cup of Nations.
Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich)
The authoritative 29-year-old would be far from a typical Wenger signing, though he could add some stability to Arsenal’s back line in the short term. The Gunners were said to be considering a January move for Olsson earlier this month, although West Brom have repeatedly said that he is not for sale. The fact that Queens Park Rangers have already had a £5 million bid rejected appears to make a move unlikely.
Luke Shaw (Southampton)
There have been several reports in recent months that the 17-year-old left-back could be the latest Southampton youth product to be snapped up by Arsenal. There would be plenty of competition, however, for a player who is already a regular in Southampton’s first-team and has been called up to the England Under-21 squad. The player has said that he wants to commit his future to Southampton.