As January fast approaches and after their fixture against Wolves has been postponed, Arsenal’s attention turns to the impending visit of a very in-form Manchester City and the January transfer window.
January is already a tough time to buy and sell, but this January window will be further exacerbated by both the ongoing coronavirus issue and the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) that will likely scupper any potential deals this winter.
But with Arsenal in high-flying form and with the current need for a larger squad, whomever Arsenal end up shifting in January, will most likely need to be replaced almost immediately.
So who will Arsenal likely look to shift in January?
It is perhaps only a matter of when Ainsley Maitland-Niles finally calls time on his Arsenal adventure, not if.
The 24-year-old has been extremely vocal about his desire to leave the club and play first-team football, something Mikel Arteta cannot guarantee him. A failed summer move to Everton seemed to really rile him up, as he took to Instagram to moan about Arsenal’s steadfastness to sell him.
While it would be a shame to see a player of his undoubted quality, with his versatility and a Hale End product no less, there is still the question of, who Arsenal would dare drop to placate him.
At right-back, Takehiro Tomiyasu has proven undroppable and, but for a recent bout of COVID-19, the Japanese fullback seems fairly impervious to injuries thus far; in midfield, Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka are too good a pivot to break up and when Partey departs for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), Albert Sambi Lokonga seems a more logical fit in Partey’s absence.
It is reported that Italian side AS Roma are in talks with Arsenal over a potential deal, thought to be a loan deal with an obligation to buy after certain criteria is filled.
It’s a shame to see Maitland-Niles leave, but there seems to be no other choice. The Englishman will be reduced to early-stage FA Cup appearances and injury-crisis appearances – even a spot in the team’s Caparabo Cup excursions seems unlikely given how deep Arsenal currently are in the competition.
There have been no official bids for Chambers, but with only 6 months remaining on his current deal, it feels like a smart move to try and cash-in on the player while he still has value, rather than allowing him to walk for free in the summer.
Regardless of the money Arsenal do recoup for him, if at all, they are unlikely to come close to the £16m Arsenal paid for him nearly 8 years ago from Southampton.
For Chambers, there seems little logic in extending his contract with the club either. In terms of the fullback situation, the aforementioned Tomiyasu is undroppable, Cédric Soares is more trusted in the back-up role and Chambers has never looked particularly at home there.
In central defence, the situation is far worse. Ben White has proven many doubters wrong this season and seems borderline undroppable, with Rob Holding prepared as a potential back-up in case of any injuries. Even then, it seems as though Arteta would rather brave Gabriel Magalhães in the role before arriving turning to Chambers.
Chambers was the subject of a £28m bid from Leicester City a few seasons back, but it seems unlikely that they would be interested in him again, especially given his infrequently he plays.
If Chambers were to move in January, a move to Crystal Palace, Norwich City or Leeds United seem like smart moves. All are looking for new defenders in the January market and Chambers would represent a low-cost, experienced stop-gap until they can source a more exciting alternative in the summer.
Perhaps we will have to wait for the All or Nothing documentary that will be released in the summer, but everyone would love to know what has happened between Pablo Marí and Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard was one of the first forays in the transfer market the club made with Arteta at the helm and he seemed indispensable for a while.
However, the growing dependability of Gabriel Magalhães has meant that Marí has become increasingly sidelined and has curiously not been seen in the Arsenal side for a while, though he did reappear on the substitute’s bench in Arsenal’s emphatic 0-5 win over Norwich City on Boxing Day.
Rumours have swirled over a potential return to Brazilian side Flamengo, who are reportedly keen on signing the Spaniard on loan with a purchase option.
It seems as though Marí’s time with the club is likely up; part of the reason he was signed initially was for both his aerial presence and his natural preference for the left-foof, but Arteta has been more than happy to usurp these qualities and trust in players like Rob Holding or Ben White in Marí’s absence.
Arsenal would likely have their eyes on a new left-footed central defender for the summer, anyway. The likes of Sven Botman at Lille, Morato at Benfica, Presnel Kimpebe at Paris Saint-Germain, Mario Hermoso at Atlético Madrid and Jörgen Joakim Nilsson at Arminia Bielefeld all likely to take the club’s fancy as a replacement for Marí and cover for Gabriel Magalhães.
Last season was dominated by the talk of whether or not Arsenal would be able to convince their young Hale End graduate up to a new long-term deal.
While Arsenal resisted offers from Brentford and co. for Balogun, they eventually managed to tie the youngster down to a long-term deal in the summer and proudly presented him with the number 26 shirt.
Since then, opportunities have been thin on the ground for the youngster; a shoe-horned start at the beginning of the season away to Brentford was then followed by a period on the sidelines with injuries and non-selection.
A rather pitiful showing in the club’s 5-1 win over Sunderland in the League Cup, left everyone in no doubt that Balogun needed a loan to help with his game time.
Arsenal would be more than willing to loan Balogun out, but given the trouble they went to to keep him at the club, it seems unlikely that the club would opt to sell him unless a truly extraordinary offer way over the £30m mark came in for him.
A loan would also mean that Arsenal would have a player out getting game time, while they try to manage the game time of the strikers still at the club.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future seems uncertain, but if he is still at the club post-AFCON, which seems likely, then he will surely be able to compete for a place back in the side, whereas Alexandre Lacazette is more than making good of his allotted play time, as is Eddie Nketiah.
The club would likely prefer that Balogun received some Premier League experience or a move to a top league abroad, but may have to settle for the Championship if no offers are forthcoming.
Perhaps a move to Newcastle United, Leeds United, Watford, Brighton & Hove Albion or Southampton could be on the cards if they are sufficiently interested enough.
Arsenal would almost certainly insist on the exclusion of a purchase clause.
This could be a hard one for Arsenal to sort out.
While the aforementioned situation with Folarian Balogun would likely mean that a slot in the team would open up for him if Eddie Nketiah were to leave in January, there is also the fact that Arsenal have been very keen to tie him down to a new deal too.
Nketiah has been on the fringes of the Arsenal side for a while now and this season, he has found himself able to command more game time either as a substitute or when slotted out wide.
Nketiah was the subject of a bid from Crystal Palace in the summer, but the forward was unable to agree personal terms, so he stayed put, effectively ending the hopes the club had of sealing a £12m deal for the forward.
Mikel Arteta has, for his part, spoken of his interest in extending Nketiah’s deal if possible, but Nketiah has proved reticent to commit to the idea, turning down the last contract extension the club made to him.
Offers for Nketiah will likely be considered in the January window if there is genuinely no hope of the forward signing a long-term deal with the club. Crystal Palace are reportedly still keen, even after signing Odsonne Édouard from Celtic, whereas teams from the Bundesliga have also registered their interest.
A deal for Nketiah will likely also be helped by his spectacular showing in this season’s League Cup, especially after his stunning, poacher’s performance against Sunderland, in which he bagged himself a well-deserved hattrick.
Any deal for Nketiah would likely be in the £10m region, though teams from abroad would likely be encouraged to agree a pre-contract with the forward in January and risk not having to pay a potential transfer fee for him, though Arsenal, as the team that developed him, may still be entitled to compensation according to the rules from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
All in all, Arsenal are unlikely to be making a huge amount of money on any of the players they sell this summer. If all of the aforementioned names are sold (or in Balogun’s most likely case, a loan fee) then Arsenal could potentially be looking at an overall haul of around £35m in all cases.
Arsenal have notoriously been poor at selling, but it would be a struggle to see how any club could get much higher than that for any of those players, given both their contract situation and their overall game time.
January will likely not see Arsenal too active, with most big deals being reserved until the summer, but if the right deal becomes available, then Arsenal will need to trim some squad fat and these players may prove to be appropriate ballast.