Barring their slip-up (quite literally in Santi Cazorla’s case) against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Arsenal have enjoyed an exceptionally strong start to the season.
The Gunners have taken 26 points from their first 13 games, following a run of five straight wins in the Premier League including 3-0 rompings of Watford, Manchester United and Swansea City.
Even after the 2-1 defeat at the Hawthorns, the north London outfit find themselves just two points off the division’s summit in fourth place amid their most convincing start to a Premier League title bid for many a year. Yet, their title credentials are still open to debate and few would bill them as out-and-out favourites.
Swaying public opinion and the bookies, whilst also improving their chances of claiming the English crown, could require some recruitment in the coming January transfer window.
And with that in mind, here are FIVE suggested mid-season signings that would transform the Gunners from rank outsiders into title favourites.
With Francis Coquelin out injured for the next two months, it’s obvious what Arsenal’s first port of call should be in the January transfer window – signing another defensive midfielder.
One of Europe’s best in that regard is Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez, a 6 foot 3 monolith so physical and defensively assured that he’s often featured at centre-back for club and country, yet blessed with all the technical quality you’d expect of a Spain international plying his trade in a Pep Guardiola side.
Arsenal have tried and failed to sign the 27-year-old before but could have better luck this time around. Martinez missed almost the entirety of last season through injury and although he’s recently returned to the starting Xi, playing the full 90 minutes in three of the Bavarians’ last four fixtures, Guardiola’s squad now boasts the likes of Mehdi Benatia, Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal – who all adequately filled his void last term.
So with the towering Spaniard’s contract set to expire at the end of next season, January is undoubtedly the time to make Bayern consider his long-term future at the club.
Another midfield enforcer who has been on Arsenal’s radar for some time, Sporting Lisbon’s beastly William Carvalho would certainly address the lack of physicality in the Gunners’ engine room.
Indeed, he measures in at 6 foot 2 and weighs a reported 14 stone, and that sheer brute strength has seen the 23-year-old emerge as one of European football’s most highly-rated youngsters, especially after picking up the Player of the Tournament award at the summer’s U21 European Championship.
His experience also stands out for a player so young, having already made 15 appearances for Portugal at senior level – including a few outings at the 2014 World Cup – and featured sparingly in Europe for Sporting Lisbon.
An injury ruled Carvalho out of a summer move but a winter switch could well be on the cards. Sporting are trying to tie their star midfielder down to a new deal but contract talks have stalled, which could pave the way for his departure in January.
Arsenal’s recent injury crisis has really highlighted their limited depth out wide, with Joel Campbell struggling to recreate the performances of sidelined duo Aaron Ramsey and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain.
In that regard, it’s hard to look past Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez. His performances may not be receiving the same treatment as Jamie Vardy’s but they’ve been equally crucial to the Foxes’ shock rise to the top of the Premier League table, with seven goals and six assists in twelve outings.
The 24-year-old has also averaged the most successful dribbles per match, 3.7, of any player in the division, and that ability to caress the ball in close quarters suggests he’d acclimatise well to the Gunners’ technically-demanding style of play.
The Algeria international represents an exciting addition to the Emirates squad, whilst his proven pedigree in the Premier League is another huge bonus.
But it could also have a significant impact on Mahrez’s price-tag, especially if Leicester are still defying the odds and within Champions League reckoning in January.
Unquestionably the best striker in Europe not plying his trade at Champions League level this season, following Napoli’s failure to qualify at the end of last term, Gonzalo Higuain has been the subject of much speculation in recent months.
The 27-year-old insists he’s still committed to the Stadio San Paolo outfit, who in turn insist that any potential suitor must activate his £67million release clause. But that sum could seem somewhat inconsequential if Higuain’s proven firepower leads Arsenal to their first Premier League title in over a decade.
Indeed, throughout his tenures with River Plate, Real Madrid, Napoli and the Argentina national team, the 6-foot striker has claimed 230 goals in 476 appearances – including a division-best ten Serie A strikes this season.
Higuain possesses the natural poacher’s instincts Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott are often accused of lacking, whilst his prior on-pitch relationship with fellow former Blanco Mesut Ozil is another added bonus.
The leading goalscorer across Europe’s five major top flights with 15 goals in just 13 appearances, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been the subject of much interest in recent weeks – with Arsenal mooted as one of the clubs looking to take him off Borussia Dortmund’s hands.
Understandably so; the Gabon international’s total for the Westphalia outfit now stands at 64 goals in 115 appearances, following on from an equally proficient two-and-a-half year spell with St.Etienne in Ligue 1.
In addition to his netting prowess, it’s the 26-year-old’s physicality that could make him such a crucial signing for Premier League admirers and particularly Arsenal. Aubameyang is sensationally quick and would certainly reap the rewards of the Gunners’ creative midfield, but he’s also powerful and dangerous in the hair through his 6 foot 2 frame.
Capable of playing out wide or centrally, the forward once dubbed the ‘African Neymar’ would add variety and quality to Arsenal’s forward line. Furthermore, Dortmund’s valuation reportedly stands at £42million – a pricey but affordable sum.
Whether the Black-Yellows will let their talismanic goalscorer leave midseason, however, especially after signing a contract extension until 2020 in the summer, remains another issue.