As the World Cup begins to draw to a conclusion, the world watches on. Will it be Croatia, France, Morocco or Argentina who lift the world’s most coveted sporting trophy?
While the rest of the world concerns themselves with the potential outcomes, clubs across Europe are turning their attentions to the January window; a January window that promises to be unlike any other.
The World Cup moving from summer to the winter has meant that, for the first time, the January window feels more like a summer window than ever before.
Traditionally, the January window serves as a chance for clubs to take advantage of rare market opportunities and finding potential stop gaps for injured or suspended players.
This January, there are a number of potential players who have become unexpectedly available, with many more who could follow in their stead, with a World Cup being the perfect occasion to place themselves in the proverbial shop window.
But who can Arsenal consider? Gabriel Jesus was forced to leave the World Cup early and undergo surgery on his knee, ahead of what looks to be as much as three months on the sidelines.
Should Mikel Arteta and Edu panic and pull the rip chord on a new striker, or do they simply wait and see what happens next?
What other positions Could Arsenal do with covering?
Left-sided (and footed) central defender
It’s no secret that Mikel Arteta has wanted a pair of left-footed central defenders to choose from in his time at the club. At the moment, Pablo Marí (Arteta’s first signing in the position) is out on loan at Monza, leaving Gabriel Magalhães as the only viable candidate in the position.
In terms of rotation options, Arsenal are not exactly short on candidates. William Saliba has played on the left side of defence in the past, Takehiro Tomiyasu is two-footed enough to negate the need for another defender, while Benjamin White and Rob Holding are able-bodied back-ups.
The reality is that Mikel Arteta wants to have increased speciality in the position.
A summer move for Ajax defender Lisandro Martínez was touted, however, he opted for a move to Manchester United instead. Interest was also registered last January in then-Freiburg defender Nico Schlotterbeck, although the defender opted to move to Borussia Dortmund instead.
In recent weeks, rumours have abounded over other potential candidates.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Ecuadorian defender Piero Hincapié has been touted as a potential candidate, but given his age, versatility (he can also play as a left-back) and Bayer Leverkusen’s league position, it seems unlikely that they would be willing to part with Hincapié unless a large offer were presented to them.
Arsenal have previously been linked with a move for Pau Torres at Villarreal, though the Spaniard seems unwilling to make the transition to a team that does not yet have UEFA Champions League football guaranteed. Croatian defender Joško Gvardiol is another potential target, though no reliable reports have linked Arsenal with the player.
Most recently, rumours have gathered Frankfurt defender Evan Ndicka has already agreed personal terms with the club over a potential move.
Ndicka has been on the radar of many clubs around Europe, woth interest heating up as the 23-year-old French defender enters the final six months of his deal in January.
Ndicka has given no indication that he is willing to re-sign with Frankfurt and clubs have begun to swarm, mainly Roma and Tottenham.
Whether or not Arsenal have already agreed terms has not been confirmed. Arsenal have held informal discussions with the player’s representatives, but no agreement has been found yet.
Edu Gaspar, recently promoted to the club’s first-ever sporting director, may decide to sign the defender for a cut-price deal in January (reports suggest that Frankfurt could be willing to accept as little as £20m for the player’s services) or wait until the summer, when they will have no fee to pay.
A left-footed central defender is, once again, high on Arsenal’s list, however, other positions are considered more vital to fill.
Defensive midfield is one of Arsenal’s highest priority positions at the moment. At the moment, Thomas Partey is the first-choice in his position, however, given the Ghanian’s patchy injury-record and a lack of genuine back-up, makes the position a real priority.
Mohamed Elneny is cosnidered an able-bodied back-up and someone who will likely play a lot in the FA Cup, however, the Egyptian is not considered to be a like-for-like replacement for Partey and his contract is up in the summer, although Arsenal do retain the option to extend the deal by a further year.
Manuel Locatelli was considered to be a very high-priority target for Arsenal last summer, however, Juventus’ favourable relationship with fellow Serie A side Sassuolo, saw them pip Arsenal to the signing.
However, Juventus could potentially be facing sanctions for a recent bout of financial doping; sanctions that could potentially see them hit with a points deduction, a fine and, crucially of all, relegation. In the instance that Juventus were relegated, certain players could become attainable and Locatelli would certainly fit the bill for Arsenal. Left-footed central defensive midfielder Danilo is another option. Arsenal had previously attempted to sign the midfielder in the summer, however, given Palmeiras’ participation in the Copa Libertadores, saw Arsenal pointed to the player’s whopping £86m release clause.
However, given that the Brazilian league season does not begin again until April, Arsenal have a golden opportunity to strike now and still give Palmeiras the chance to sign a replacement. The Brazilian side are rumoured to already be considering potential alternatives in the case of Danilo’s departure, such as Athletico Paranaense’s Hernani and Sassuolo’s Matheus Henrique.
Danilo is also subject to interest from Ligue 1 side AS Monaco, however, Arsenal will be hoping that Edu’s favourable relationships in Brazil will prove useful in signing the young defender.
A winger has been hot on the agenda for Arsenal for some time. In the summer, the club tried, and ultimately failed, to recruit a potential wide player to cover for Bukayo Saka.
Emile Smith Rowe’s return from injury is helpful, though he will likely be playing back-up to Gabriel Martinelli in the long-run, ratehr than being shipped over to the right-hand side.
Leeds United winger Raphina was a priority target before his switch to Barcelona, as was Wolves’ Pedro Neto, though both players look decidedly unlikely in the January window.
The main name that has been linked with a potential move to the club this summer has been Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhailo Mudryk, who has been lighting up the Ukrainian league and the Champions League this season.
Mudryk, for his part, seems fairly desperate for a move to north London too. In an interview with journalist Vlada Zinchenko (wife of Arsenal defender Oleksandr Zinchenko), Mudryk made his intentions to play for Arsenal known.
Arsenal weighed up a potential move for the winger in the summer, however, injuries to Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny forced Arsenal to turn their attentions elsewhere.
Mudryk would not be a cheap purchase, however. While Shakhtar have publicly stated that Mudryk is not for sale and would cost “more than Antony” (Manchester United’s £86.27m summer signing), there are private assurances to the player that they would allow him to leave for less. Nevertheless, Shakhtar are unlikely to considered anything below £50m for the winger.
Though Mudryk is capable of taking up residence on the right-hand side, he traditionally operates on the left, though there is a feeling among many close to the situation that Mikel Arteta would potentially consider using Mudryk on the right or through the middle.
Over the course of the World Cup, prior to the team’s warm-weather training in Dubai, Mikel Arteta visited Los Angeles to watch the LA Rams 23-27 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, where a fan asked him to sign Mudryk, to which the Spaniard apparently replied with a wry smile and a “we’re working on it”.
If you had asked Arsenal fans heading into the World Cup if there was a position that the club didn’t need to recruit in, striker would have been somewhere near the top.
However, Gabriel Jesus’ recent injury has meant that Arsenal may be forced into a move this January.
Ostensibly, Eddie Nketiah will likely take up the role of deputy striker in Jesus’ absence, however, Gabriel Martinelli has played through the middle on occasion, and Mikel Arteta has spoken about the possibilities of Emile Smith Rowe being used in the coveted false nine role.
However, Arsenal may consider some other options in Jesus’ absence.
Last January, Arsenal were interested in Fiorentina striker Dušan Vlahović, however, the Serbian opted to join Juventus instead. Given Juventus’ aforementioned issues, it seems as though Vlahović could become a potential option moving forward.
The club has previously been linked with PSV forward Cody Gakpo, and his recent form at the World Cup will have done PSV no favours if they intend to keep him, though aJanuary move seems unlikely and Manchester United are thought to be the most serious option for Gakpo at the present moment. Barcelona’s Memphis Depay and Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhailo Mudryk are potential options as well.
A name that has also appeared in the press in recent weeks is Atlético Madrid’s João Félix. Félix is a long-admired target of Mikel Arteta’s for many years, but the prospect of bringing him to the Emirates Stadium always seemed a little unlikely.
However, recently, Félix has thought to have “fallen out” with Atlético Madrid head coach Diego Simeone and the Spaniards are keen to cash in on the Portuguese – a loan with an obligation is also amenable to Los Colchoneros. Publicly, Atlético have affirmed their stance of wanting around €140m (£120.17m) for Félix, although that stance is expected to soften given the breakdown of relations between both parties.
Félix, much like Santi Cazorla, has the benefit of being two-footed and capable of playing in all areas of the forward-line, most notably as a striker.
For now, Arsenal do not seem overly worried about Jesus’ injury. The Brazilian could return to the side in a matter of weeks or months and signing a striker in January would mean that the club would potentially be signing a player they don’t necessarily believe in in the long-term, although Félix would be a very welcome addition, though he would not come cheap. Félix’s Atlético Madrid teammate Matheus Cunha is another potential option.
The main question that lurks over the January window is just how much Arsenal are willing to invest. Reports in October suggested that Mikel Arteta would be handed a £50m budget by owner Stan Kroenke, but given Arsenal’s place in the table, recent reports suggest that the Kroenkes are keen for Arsenal to build on their current upsurge in form.
Outgoings are also on the agenda, though the likelihood is that the club will wait until the summer window before they look to jetison any players, with most viable candidates already out on loan, including Nicolas Pépé, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Pablo Marí and Alex Rúnarsson.