Arsenal enjoyed a fruitful January on the pitch, going unbeaten in the Premier League and finally showing signs of progression under Mikel Arteta in the current campaign. Can we keep replaying that month, please?
Barring the FA Cup exit it was a thoroughly enjoyable four weeks. But we won’t focus on what happened over the white line, and instead what took place off it. Which was a lot.
No less than eight players left in the January transfer window either as loans or permanent deals, signalling the importance of stability and manageability to Arteta as he builds towards the future.
Starting with the signings, there were three realistic areas that needed tending to: goalkeeper, left-back and creative midfield. Acquiring those targets was an uphill struggle from the off, most notably in attacking midfield.
Arsenal’s grade for their business in the January transfer window
From Dominik Szoboszlai to Houssem Aouar, Emi Buendia to Christian Eriksen, the profiles varied from inverted winger to desperate stop-gap, all of which came with heavy financial burdens or unmatched needs.
Thus, securing the six-month loan signing of Martin Odegaard was admirable. Too early to tell? In terms of on-field contributions, yes. But in regards to market availability and the risk it entailed, there were no better viable options out there.
Then there was undeniable urge for a backup goalkeeper. Once again, trying to bring in the long-term successor for Bernd Leno was a near impossible task in January with no club willing to part with their keeper in the middle of the season, at least not for a hefty fee. Mat Ryan became available, and his Premier League experience coupled with the lack of bedding in period, it was another shrewd addition.
While the recruitment side performed admirably in those two departments, the left-back conundrum proved too troublesome to navigate around. With Kieran Tierney’s increasingly worrying injury concerns and Cedric’s obvious drawbacks on the opposite flank, despite filling in well, that comes as the only downside on an otherwise impressive pair of incomings.
If Cedric falls foul to injury and Tierney continues to be beset with niggling concerns, then Arsenal could be in trouble.