Arsenal's Top 3 Agenda Items For The Winter Transfer Window
The Unai Emery era at Arsenal started off with questions about how his side would differ from Arsene Wenger's and two straight losses to Manchester City and Chelsea. In August there were questions all around the squad.
How would they try to fit in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette? What was going on with the Aaron Ramsey contract situation? Was there a pair of center backs that could help the club challenge for the top four and why was Callum Chambers going out on loan? Why wasn't the new, expensive, goalkeeper starting? And was this a side Emery could really shape into a top-four squad?
Jump ahead four months and the new boss has clearly had an impact on the squad and the supporters. Arsenal is currently on a 22-match unbeaten streak after closing out its Europa League group stage with another win on Thursday. The side sits fifth in the Premier League, but is only two points outside of third place. Emery has found a way to breathe life into several players and benefited from some excellent deals by the organization this past summer — Lucas Torreira, Bernd Leno, and Matteo Guendouzi jump out.
Knowing that Arsenal has said winter moves are very unlikely, what should the club focus on in the month ahead?
Possible January 2019 Arsenal Transfers And Moves
1. A new center back
Arsenal had no plans to buy anyone in January, but Rob Holding's injury, which will see him out the rest of the season, likely changed that. Arsenal had found great form using the three-center back and two-wingback system. But the options are limited and depth would be stretched. Laurent Koscielny is just now returning from injury (and is 33), Shkodran Mustafi is prone to errors, he and Sokratis Papastathopoulos can have great games but also always seem up for a red card. This forces fullbacks Nacho Monreal (also coming back from an injury) and Stephan Lichtsteiner into center back duty.
The Gunners need one more center back option to see out 2018-19 and make a push for the top four. The easiest option may be to take Gary Cahill off Chelsea's hands, a club that wants him gone. He isn't the long-term solution, but right now Arsenal defense is a patchwork strategy.
A majority of the starters or future players have long-term contracts. Several are expiring, and we will get to them in a moment.
Two players that Arsenal should spend January getting to sign new contracts are Emile Smith Rowe and Monreal. Monreal, 32, needs a one-year extension, as his value to the LB and CB positions is crucial, not to mention his leadership within the squad. On the other end of the spectrum, Smith Rowe has shined when given his chance this season. With two attack options on their way out this summer and the ever-present Mesut Ozil back injuries, ESR needs a long-term deal. He should see plenty of first-team action in 2019-20.
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3. Prepare for a summer of exits
The era of Wenger still needs a lot of work to move the transition along. This summer the club should likely see Danny Welbeck, Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey all move on as their contracts end. (If someone wants Ramsey early in January, the club should sell him.)
Instead, the new front office of Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat should be focused on who the new No. 2 goalkeeper will be next season. The young Matt Macey or a new face (assuming David Ospina and Emiliano Martinez move on). Is Eddie Nketiah ready to be the backup striker (Welbeck role) or does he need a year on loan playing each week first? If the club wants Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all to get more minutes in midfield next season, where does that leave players like Henrihk Mkhitaryan and Mohamed Elneny moving forward?
A great January for Arsenal fans would bring a new center back, contract news and a chance to avenge the early season loss to Chelsea.