Transfer window needs: Arsenal
Hoo boy. How do you figure out what a club needs, when you don't even know how it's going to play? Because of the divisions in the Arsenal hierarchy before Unai Emery left, it's been difficult to tell if the club still has a coherent philosophy of football. We don't actually know if the new head coach will have to work within a predetermined style, or whether he'll be asked to lead with his own ideas. Still, there are some clear deficiencies in the squad that require remediation.
It's not usually a good sign when your two most recent signings at CB were 30 and 32, respectively, when you brought them in. And surprise, surprise, Arsenal find themselves in dire need of reinforcements at CB. Sokratis and David Luiz have simply been poor this season, with the Greek international rated 22 for defending quality and the Brazilian just 4 (and 8 for defending quantity). With Kostas Mavropanos not yet trusted in the Premier League and Rob Holding injured, there just aren't many good options. Calum Chambers has offered decent cover at RCB, but if he's playing centrally, then the Gunners currently have no healthy fullbacks, unless you include the adaptable Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Could the Gunners really sign two central defenders in January? Having registered only 20 of a possible 25 senior players at the start of the season, Arsenal still have room in the squad for new signings. Plus, Sokratis, David Luiz, and Shkodran Mustafi are all on 2021 contracts, so the folks at the Emirates Stadium will probably be looking to unload at least one in January and possibly all three by the end of the summer.
So far this season, the club's CBs have played with extremely high ball retention based on a lot of link-up passing and a considerable amount of longer forward passes as well. If the idea is to continue in that mode, an obvious choice at LCB would be smarterscout young prospect Dayot Upamecano, though the Leipzig man might not want to leave in the middle of a Champions League campaign. For a lower-priced option, Sergi Gomez will also be looking for a new club, having fallen definitively out of the reckoning at Sevilla.
At RCB, the marquee option would probably be Ruben Dias, another smarterscout young prospect, at Benfica. He's a Jorge Mendes client, though, so Wolves (or Spurs!) might have the inside track to his signature. On the cheaper side, with a bit more experience as well, the Gunners might like to look at Alexander Scholz at Midtjylland or Andre Silva at Salzburg. But let's face it – no one wants to skimp on their CB of the future when they've just unloaded €25m plus wages on the CBs of the past.
The obvious hole in the middle of the park is the one where the towering midfield general should be. The less said about Granit Xhaka's adventures in captaincy, the better – who will lead the Gunners into the second half of the season? It's not easy to find a leader in the numbers, but it would be good to bring in someone who spoke English and had experience captaining a side... and there really aren't many players like that who excel at the position and might be available. One is a member of our smarterscout Young Prospects World XI, Teun Koopmeiners, the AZ Alkmaar captain (read more about him in our article, linked in the sidebar on your right).
Further up the pitch, Arsenal are in much better shape, with above average attacking output coming from Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira in midfield, Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe on the wings (albeit with scant minutes), and Alexandre Lacazette up front. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hasn't been at his best, though, and as the 30-year-old is another player on a 2021 contract, he may be on the move sooner than fans expect. If a new coach comes in soon, the revolving door at the Emirates may be spinning fast indeed.
[Photo: Amir Hosseini]