Defensive frailties have long been a thorn in the Gunners’ side. It seems almost a lifetime ago that Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell partnered each other in the centre of defence. They were a dream duo and a massive part of ‘The Invincibles’ 49-game unbeaten streak, at a time when Arsenal were often favoured in Premier League title odds.
Despite bringing in David Luiz and Kieran Tierney during the last transfer window, the problem persists and the Gunners have conceded 23 goals in their 15 league games so far. Having won just four times in the Premier League this season, something’s got to change. The January transfer window is the ideal opportunity to bring in new faces – but how many of Arsenal’s targets would be happy playing Europa League football for a side placed mid-table?
With the festive fixture list at full capacity, who are the realistic targets the north London club should plump for in the January transfer window?
Merih Demiral (Juventus)
The 21-year-old is way down the pecking order at the Serie A giants and is wanted by a number of Premier League clubs, including Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Demiral has made just one league appearance under Maurizio Sarri since joining from Sassuolo in the summer, and finds game-time limited due to the dominance of Leonardo Bonnucci and Matthijs de Ligt in the back four.
Despite signing for Juve for €18 million, it is reported that the club want £34 million for his services – a fee that has forced the Gunners to consider a swap move for Héctor Bellerín in order to get ahead of their rivals.
Pau Francisco Torres (Villarreal)
If the Gunners are serious about getting rid of Bellerín, fellow Spaniard Torres could be a good replacement. The 22-year-old had a successful loan spell in the Segunda División last season at Málaga, and since returning to his hometown club he has been ever-present for the Yellow Submarines.
At 6 foot 3, Torres will pose an aerial threat, which could prove beneficial when it comes to set pieces at both ends of the pitch. He was called up to the Spanish national squad in October, making his debut last month and there’s no doubt the youngster has a bright future ahead of him. Whether that future is in north London remains to be seen.
Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
If experienced heads are required, Arsenal could look to bring Smalling back to English football and the Premier League. The 30-year-old, who joined Roma on a season-long loan in August, spent nine seasons at Old Trafford. It’s believed the Red Devils are asking for a fee of at least £18 million, but are open to selling the centre back.
If the Gunners are interested, they’ll be looking to fight a number of clubs for his signature, with his current club keen to make the move permanent. Juventus and Inter Milan are supposedly also on the radar following a number of impressive performances in Italy’s top flight this term.
It’s recently been revealed that Unai Emery was denied the request to bring in a number of his key targets, including Thomas Partey, Wilfried Zaha and Harry Maguire. With speculation rife as to who the next permanent boss at the Emirates Stadium will be, here’s hoping they will be given the cash to spend or else the Gunners could endure a torrid season. One thing is for sure, the New Year will bring tougher challenges yet.