Arsenal: What’s the priority in this winter window?

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Arsenal and Doncaster Rovers at Emirates Stadium on September 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Arsenal and Doncaster Rovers at Emirates Stadium on September 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images) /

With the transfer window shaping up to be a busy one in the red side of North London, what should be Arsenal’s priorities be over the coming month?

The winter transfer window is one that brings various opinions to the table. Some think that it allows a squad to add strength having assessed its players for six months. Others, like Arsene Wenger, think it is a distraction that should be scrapped. I tend not to agree with Wenger on much. But in this case, I think he has a point.

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However, the transfer window is there, and neither Wenger nor I can change that. So, Arsenal might as well take advantage of it. This winter, it certainly looks like the window could be decisive for the future of the club.

With contracts running down, fringe players looking for regular football before the summer World Cup and targets to be chased, it is important to keep some perspective and remember that Wenger is unlikely to let too many players go or bring too many new faces in. It’s just not his way.

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I have identified three positions where I think there could be, however, change during the window. These positions are central defence, central midfield and attacking midfield/winger.

Firstly, the centre of the defence certainly seems like a major issue. Following countless poor defensive performances this season and the worst defensive record of the top six, investment here looks like a must. With a lack of depth to start with, departures in this area are very unlikely. However, murmurs of Johnny Evans’ arrival have been circling the tabloids, and I think he would be a positive addition to the squad.

Secondly, central midfield is also an ailing issue. Even before the sudden rumours of Francis Coquelin’s impending exit, this area was in desperate need of strengthening. Now, with the Frenchman’s likely departure, the position certainly needs an upgrade. The signing of Granit Xhaka two summers ago was meant to solve the defensive midfield conundrum. But his limitations in this role have been heavily exposed and it is obvious to so many that Arsenal need a strong operator in the centre of the park.

Finally, the wide areas. It actually seems more likely that will be departures, rather than incomings. With Alexis Sanchez unsettled and reportedly causing unrest in the dressing room, his transfer to Manchester City for a cut-price fee seems inevitable. Theo Walcott also looks to be on his way out. With limited opportunities in the league so far, the Englishman could be on his way to Everton or Southampton to aid his chances of being selected in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.

I highly doubt Wenger will let both players leave. He will want to avoid the pitfalls of having a too thin squad. But if one of the two leaves, then a replacement could well be sought out. Thomas Lemar’s name is being heavily mentioned following Arsenal’s late bid over the summer, as well as murmurs regarding young Brazilian winger Malcom and Lyon attacker Nabil Fekir. However, I think a transfer for a high-profile winger like a Lemar or a Malcom is not likely to be sorted until the summer.

With Wenger unlikely to strengthen in all three areas, which position should be his transfer priority? As I hinted at earlier, I believe a winger is the least important of the three. Top-quality options are unlikely to available and, with the likes of Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey to cover for Sanchez, if he were to depart, for the remainder of the year, I believe Wenger will wait to the summer so any potential signing isn’t rushed.

It is then a straight toss up between centre back and defensive midfield. This is where it becomes tough to predict Wenger’s thinking. Personally, I think a defensive midfielder is a greater necessity.

If you look at it logically. A strong defensive midfielder would automatically reduce the need for a new centre back as our current options would be better protected. In addition, there isn’t a player in the squad that can effectively screen the back four, especially if Coquelin’s exits. There is just enough defensive cover to make it to the summer, but in defensive midfield the options are non-existent.

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That is why, if Wenger was only to strengthen one position this winter, I would want it to be defensive midfield. Whether Wenger himself agrees or not, only time will tell. I will, though, with all the uncertainty and media furore, be keenly interested to see how he navigates this January window.