Arsenal were one of the Premier League’s more active sides during the January transfer window, recruiting Krystian Bielik from Legia Warsaw on the 21st and following up five days later with a swoop for Villarreal’s Gabriel Paulista.
It was still hardly a window of prolific spending however, with a total outlay of just under £14million, when compared to a summer in which the Gunners splashed out a whopping £80million.
So, should the north Londoners be praised for not falling into the many traps of the winter market, or is this a window of missed opportunities for Arsenal?
Perhaps this select XI, combining the club’s top performers with rumoured January targets, will shed some light on the debate.
With Arsenal No.1 Wojciech Szczesny enduring a rather turbulent campaign both on and off the field, committing a catalog of costly errors between the sticks and caught smoking post-match in the Southampton showers, the Gunners were linked with a number of potential replacements during the January window, including Serie A sensation Mattia Perin.
Dubbed ‘the next Gigi Buffon’ for his lofty frame and shared hairstyle, the 22 year-old has made the most saves of any Italian top flight goalkeeper this season with an impressive 63 in 20 appearances, also boasting five clean sheets.
Indeed, the one-cap Italian international is tipped for great things; accordingly, The Express alleged Arsenal were considering a £12million bid for his services last month.
Perhaps due to the impressive form of David Ospina in recent weeks, such a bid failed to materialise.
Having invested £28million in two right-backs during the summer, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy, and recently found another potential gem in academy product Hector Bellerin, No.2 was one of the departments that didn’t require Arsene Wenger’s attention last month.
Despite struggling to stay fit, the France international has proved a decent addition for the Gunners, averaging an impressive 2.6 tackles, 1.8 interceptions and 5.1 clearances per match from his 10 Premier League outings.
Arsenal remedied their dearth of depth at centre-back with an £11million swoop for Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista during the winter window – but was he the best option on the table?
West Ham’s Winston Reid, for example, also linked with the Gunners, is well proven in the Premier League and largely considered to be one of the better centre-backs outside of the top four.
The 26 year-old may not be the most gifted defender technically, but he’s an undisputed master of the nuts and bolts of the trade – tackles, headers, interceptions and clearances – and is blessed with the awkward, gangly and physical frame of a modern Martin Keown.
The New Zealand skipper would have offered a new sense of grittiness to the Gunners’ backline and with his contract expiring at the end of the campaign, the potential was there to poach him from Upton Park in a cut-price deal.
Wenger opted for Paulista however, despite being fairly public about his interest in Reid – perhaps suggesting some truth in the rumour that he’s already agreed to join Tottenham in the summer on a free transfer.
Laurent Koscielny has emerged as one of the top centre-backs in the Premier League over the last few seasons and continued to improve it this year, despite some worrying injury problems.
The France international has averaged an impressive 1.2 tackles, 3.7 interceptions and 2.5 successful aerial duels per match this term. Rather tellingly, the Gunners have kept six clean sheets during his ten Premier League outings this season.
Following his Championship Player of the Month award in September, Arsene Wenger soon admitted that Ipswich Town left-back Tyrone Mings was one of the targets on his radar.
The 21 year-old has certainly been in impressive form this season, grabbing three assists in 23 second tier outings whilst averaging 2.3 tackles, 2.6 interceptions, one successful dribble and 1.2 chances created per match.
What stands out most about Mings however is his obvious potential, despite being yet to represent England at junior level. He’s an ambitious, marauding and speedy full-back, but also blessed with the imposing 6 foot 5 physique of a Premier League centre-half; in other words, he’s a prospect that could be moulded into virtually anything by the Gunners coaching staff.
With Sporting Lisbon restructuring all their third-party ownership agreements to ensure full profits from any future sales, coveted midfield prodigy William Carvalho was certainly there for the taking last month.
Despite the emergence of Francis Coquelin in recent weeks, the Gunners’ engine room still lacks that imperious physical presence that can compete with the likes of Yaya Toure and Nemanja Matic; measuring in at 6 foot 2, weighing around 14 stone and famed for his simple-yet-effective, imposing style of play-breaking, the Portugal international could have been the perfect remedy.
It’s claimed Arsenal had a bid for the 22 year-old knocked back on summer deadline day, so many assumed they’d return for him when the transfer window reopened. The Metro even claimed they were intent on finalising a £25million deal.
Unfortunately however, the bid never went on the table – or at least, news of it never hit the press – and Arsenal’s midfield remains without a monolithic influence for the remainder of the campaign.
Another physical, although somewhat more progressive, midfielder linked to the Gunners last month came in the form of Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko.
The France international has produced some convincing displays this season, particularly against the Premier League’s big boys as an industrious counter-attacking threat just in front of the midfield, following on from his impressive six-assist haul last term.
Speculation regarding a move to the Emirates hit it’s maxim when the 25 year-old revealed on French television that he’s a lifelong Arsenal fan and wants to be playing Champions League football.
But the previously alleged £15million bid as the Gunners suffered several injures in central midfield, never took place.
Not a position the majority of Arsenal fans would like to see club record singing Mesut Ozil in; the £42million man’s Gunners career has been plagued by Arsene Wenger’s insistence upon fielding him on the right hand side.
But needs must, and for this starting Xi the German international is filling in. With his World Cup hangover and injury problems hopefully overcome, we could see the Real Madrid star finally live up to his billing in the second half of the season after scoring against Aston Villa last weekend.
Despite Arsenal’s overload in attacking midfield, the tabloids linked them to another this January – former Chelsea youngster Kevin De Bruyne.
The Belgium international struggled to make the grade at Stamford Bridge, managing just three Premier League appearances in two years despite a very productive loan spell with Werder Bremen, where he picked up the Bundesliga’s Young Player of the Year award.
He returned to the German top flight last January, this time with Wolfsburg, and has since gone on to produce some incredible form. This season, for example, he’s notched up six goals and eleven assists in just 18 Bundesliga outings – the latter statistic being almost double of any other player in the division.
A £25million fee was mooted as Manchester United and Manchester City were listed as fellow potential suitors, but The Express reported on deadline day that the 23 year-old playmaker had snubbed Premier League interest to say on at the Volkswagon Arena.
Head and shoulders above the rest of the Emirates roster in terms of performances this season, no matter who Arsenal could have signed in January, Alexis Sanchez’ place in the starting Xi would never have come under any serious threat.
Indeed, the Chile international has bagged twelve goals and seven assists in 21 Premier League appearances, in addition to netting thrice in the Champions League, since his arrival from Barcelona in the summer, and the Gunners appear to have landed a real bargain in their £35million acquisition.
Although Olivier Giroud has enjoyed some impressive form of late, Arsenal’s strike-force still lacks that star-studded world-class figure who can become talismanic for the north Londoners in the final third.
Speculation in January, however, suggested they were considering a move for Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, who blends his powerful, athletic and combative 6 foot 2 frame with a prolific supply of goals, bagging 39 in 66 for PSG and 104 in 138 for former club Napoli.
He appears to be on his way out at Parc de Princes too, having fallen afoul of Laurent Blanc after receiving a three-match internal ban for missing the club’s winter training camp.
Some even alleged the Gunners were resultantly plotting a club-record £50million bid, which unsurprisingly failed to materialise. Other reports however, claim Arsenal will return for Cavani in the summer.