Mikel Arteta has only been in the job for a fortnight but he is already about to enter his first transfer window as Arsenal’s head coach.
Publicly, the Spaniard has stated that he hasn’t made any firm plans with the club over potential January deals but he certainly discussed the club’s recruitment strategy with head of football Raul Sanllehi, technical director Edu and the rest of Arsenal’s management group during the process which led to his appointment.
Unai Emery was unable to make any permanent signings last January due to financial restrictions, meaning the only addition to the squad was Denis Suarez, who joined on loan from Barcelona.
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Money will be tight once again this year, although some possible departures could allow Arsenal dip into the market if a decent opportunity presents itself.
Below, Goal takes a look at what business could be done by the north London club in January…
The big news is, of course, the imminent exit of Granit Xhaka, who looks set to return to Germany to join Hertha Berlin.
The former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder’s departure was inevitable from the moment he clashed with the Arsenal fans following his substitution against Crystal Palace in October. It was merely of question of whether he would leave in January or at the end of the season.
Xhaka is pushing for a deal with Hertha to be done immediately and although Mikel Arteta has expressed his admiration for the player, it’s highly likely he will leave as long as Arsenal are happy with size of the fee.
Xhaka has a contract until 2023 and Arsenal want to recoup as much of the £35 million ($46m) fee they paid for the Switzerland international in 2016.
There is also a chance that Shkodran Mustafi could move on if the right offer comes in but, as was the case in the summer, the German centre-back will not be pushed out of the club, even though it has been made clear he is free to leave.
Arsenal are unlikely to sanction any other permanent sales during January, but some youngsters, including Emile Smith Rowe, could go out on loan, as could Konstantinos Mavropanos, providing a centre-back is brought in.
Eddie Nketiah also now looks set to return to north London from his loan spell at Leeds after both he and Arsenal grew frustrated by his lack of game time at Elland Road. Leeds don’t want to lose the youung striker, but he is now almost certain to head back to the Emirates before moving to another Championship club on loan, with Bristol City leading the way. There is also interst in Nketiah from clubs in Germany.
Xhaka’s departure would make a new central midfielder a necessity. Arsenal’s big dilemma is, therefore, whether to try to plug the gap temporarily with a loan signing or bring in a replacement on a permanent basis.
The Gunners hold a long-standing interest in Adrien Rabiot that dates back to Arsene Wenger’s time in north London.
Unai Emery was also a fan of the midfielder and Arsenal tried to sign on a free transfer from Paris Saint Germain last summer only for the Frenchman to instead join Juventus.
However, things haven’t gone well for the 24-year-old in Turin to date and Arsenal may try to tempt Juventus into a loan deal for the remainder of the season should Xhaka complete his switch to Berlin.
Defensively, a lot depends on whether Mustafi leaves and the results on the scans which will be carried out on Calum Chambers’ knee following the injury he sustained against Chelsea.
Arsenal want to bring in a new centre-back but are aware they have William Saliba arriving in the summer once he finishes the season with Saint-Etienne. There is no agreement in place with the French club that could see Saliba join in January, although Arsenal could still explore the option.
There was strong interest in Dayot Upamecano in the summer and the 21-year-old remains high on Arsenal’s list of targets but, from an economic perspective, a deal for the RB Leipzig star would be difficult this winter, even though he is now entering the final 18 months of his contract. A renewed push for Upamecano remains more likely at the end of the season.
It leaves Arsenal in a difficult situation, one that again could see them turn to a short-term loan option to see them through to the summer window, when they will have more financial clout and more of their targets are accessible.
There was some interest in Daniele Rugani during the summer and given his lack of game time this season for Juventus, he could be an option once again.
HOW THEY COULD LINE UP
Arsenal have been decimated by injuries in recent weeks, especially in defence. where they have been without full-backs Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin.
Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have been filling in, but Arteta’s side will undoubtedly be stronger when the regulars return.
Arteta has set his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation during his first two games at the club and that system looks to be the one the Spaniard will stick with during the second half of the campaign.
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When fit, Bellerin and Tierney will certainly fill the full-back positions and Gabriel Martinelli could well come in on the left side of attack, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang moving into his preferred central striking role at the expense of Alexandre Lacazette.
The big question will be who fills Xhaka’s role should he leave for Germany.
Will it be Rabiot? Or will Arteta opt to wait until the summer and pair Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira together for the remainder of the season?