Having claimed last season’s Europa League and Champions League titles, there is no debating the quality of the Spanish top flight.
Indeed, La Liga boasts the two most popular and successful sides in world football, Real Madrid and Barcelona, but the quality is spread more evenly throughout the division than often assumed.
Even clubs like Sevilla, who finished in 5th place last season, have claimed back-to-back Europa League titles, whilst teams like Athletic Bilbao, Deportivo and Real Sociedad always have a few promising youngsters on their books.
The good news for the Premier League, however, is that there’s still a sizable disparity in terms of finance. The English top flight spent more than double of its Spanish counterpart during the summer window and boasts the funds to sign practically any La Liga star outside of the Barca and Real Madrid starting Xis.
With that in mind and the next transfer window now just over a month away, here are FIVE La Liga stars Arsenal should target in January.
Arsenal are reportedly in the market for enhanced firepower and Valencia’s prodigious Paco Alcacer would certainly be an interesting addition to their strike-force.
The 22-year-old’s all-round game is relatively limited but he possesses the natural poacher’s instincts Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott are often accused of lacking. One might even dare describe him as a ‘fox in the box’.
Since the 5 foot 9 forward’s first senior outing in 2010, there has been an obvious progression. Alcacer’s goal tallies have increased with every season and he looks set to record his best haul to date this year, with six goals in eleven La Liga outings already.
Having also contributed five goals to La Roja’s Euro 2016 qualifier campaign, the eleven-cap international is highly-regarded not only at the Mestalla but throughout Spanish football.
But Alcacer’s contract doesn’t expire until 2020 and his release clause is set at a steep €80million. Although Valencia may surrender the Torrent-born finisher for less, the Gunners would have to make a big offer to convince them to sell midseason.
Isco’s limited involvement in Saturday’s El Clasico proved what many have suspected for some time; that his status in the starting Xi will always be dependent on the fitness of Real Madrid’s more coveted names regardless of form.
Indeed, the Spain international was benched for the 4-0 Barcelona defeat despite starting Real Madrid’s three fixtures prior and boasting a decent return of one goal and three assists in 13 La Liga outings this season.
Arsenal aren’t exactly in need of more midfield creativity but the 23-year-old would certainly enhance the options at Arsene Wenger’s disposal. He made his name as a playmaking winger at Malaga but has performed well at No.10 and in central midfield since moving to the Bernabeu in summer 2013.
If Wenger can reshuffle his starting Xi to make room for Isco, he would be an impressive addition. Furthermore, unlikely to extend his current contract past 2018 without greater assurances of playing time, Real Madrid could be tempted into selling when the transfer window reopens.
With Francis Coquelin sidelined for the next three months, signing another midfield enforcer will surely be Arsenal’s priority during the January transfer window.
In terms of La-Liga-based solutions, all roads point back to reported summer target Grzegorz Krychowiak, who was linked with an Emirates move after winning the Europa League title and claiming a spot in La Liga’s Team of the Season during his debut campaign at Sevilla.
The Poland international has continued to impress this season and particularly in the Champions League, averaging the second-most interceptions per match of any player involved in the tournament, a whopping 5.4, alongside 2.6 tackles, 2.2 clearances and 4.2 successful aerial duels.
The 25-year-old’s 91% passing accuracy is equally encouraging, considering the Gunners’ technically demanding style of play, and famed for the aggression in which he asserts his 6 foot 1 frame, Krychowiak would certainly add some much-needed physicality to Arsenal’s engine room.
Although he recently signed a contract extension at Sevilla, the former Reims star’s £32million release clause is certainly affordable.
Arsenal’s defence is certainly enjoying better health than in recent seasons but another body thrown into the mix wouldn’t be a bad thing – especially one that can cover two positions.
Enter Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte, widely regarded as one of the most exciting centre-back prospects in Europe but blessed with enough pace to fill in at left-back when required.
Indeed, agility and quality in possession remain amongst the Frenchman’s defining attributes, with marauding runs from the back – in a not dissimilar manner to Everton’s John Stones – a predominant feature of his game.
But the 21-year-old also a very talented defender, averaging 2 tackles, 3.4 interceptions, 2.6 successful aerial duels and 4 clearances from ten La Liga outings this season, whilst his experience also stands out for a player so young, having already registered over 100 appearances at senior level.
But every major European club, from Juventus to Barcelona, appear to be keeping one eye on Laporte at the minute. Should Arsenal decide to activate his €50million release clause in January, Champions League rivals are likely to follow suit.
Arsene Wenger has made an art of snapping up Barcelona starlets disillusioned by a lack of first team football and one who certainly falls into that category is Munir El Haddadi.
The 19-year-old forward burst onto the scene at the start of last season with a debut goal against Elche and even muscled his way into Spain’s senior squad for an outing against Macedonia in September 2014, after registering eight goals in eleven appearances for La Roja’s youth sides.
He’s highly-rated at the Nou Camp, to the extent that they bumped up his release clause to £28million last December.
But the 5 foot 9 attacker faces a seemingly impossible task of usurping a first team role from Lionel Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez, whilst Arda Turan’s emergence from January onward (the summer signing is only allowed to play for Barcelona once their transfer embargo is lifted in the new year) could create yet another blockade en route to the starting Xi.
With his contract set to expire at the end of next season, January represents a fantastic chance for Arsenal to make El Haddadi and Barcelona think twice about his long-term future at the Nou Camp.