IT IS ‘that’ time of year again, crazy season, the January transfer window.
Because of the unusual end to last season and the consequent later summer window we find ourselves back here swiftly.
The mid-season opportunity to strengthen is of course, always trickier for clubs, with value harder to find and for Arsenal, Edu and Mikel Arteta, it will be no different.
However, Arsenal’s cause has been helped considerably by three back-to-back wins, which will make the task for those selling a move to the Emirates that much easier.
The prospect now is to sign for a project that is blending quality experience with exciting young talent.
I feel therefore this window should be more about replacing the exiting experience with better quality experience as opposed to bolstering an already-exciting tranche of younger players.
With the likes of Sead Kolasinac, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis and maybe even Mesut Ozil departing, regardless of our individual views on their ability, Arteta is losing some older statesmen.
If he and Edu are to bring in new players for this squad, they surely must be players in their mid-20s approaching their peak and ideally, for me at least, Premier League ready.
In reality, Arteta has seniority and experience in attack with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette and in defence he still has David Luiz to mentor his younger peers for the remainder of the campaign.
Hector Bellerin too is the club’s longest-serving active squad member and Kieran Tierney, Pablo Mari, Gabriel and Rob Holding are all seasoned professionals.
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Where he lacks quality and experience combined is in the midfield area and particularly at the creative end.
Mohamed Elneny is a good squad stalwart, Dani Ceballos is talented but young and not our player, Joe Willock is an enigma and his box-to-box attributes do not really fit, Willian seems a failed gamble and Emile Smith Rowe is super talented yet untested and injury prone.
With Matteo Guendouzi unlikely to earn a reprieve, that leaves only Lucas Torreira, who could be recalled, Arteta’s go-to man Granit Xhaka and the big hope, Thomas Partey.
The Swiss is not perhaps every fan’s favourite, but he is vastly experienced in a squad bereft of that valued commodity in a key area of the pitch.
Therefore, in this window I believe Edu will have been tasked with potentially bringing in two midfielders.
One of creative disposition to share the creative load with Smith Rowe centrally and to mentor the young Englishman.
The second in my honest opinion, will be the long-term central midfield partner of choice for Thomas Partey.
I strongly believe that 2020-21 will be the last season where Xhaka is first choice and Arteta needs a true defensive midfielder, but with more mobility and pace than the Swiss international.
I am not saying they will be the players, but it is this rationale that sees Arsenal linked to Emi Buendia and Julian Brandt for need number one and Yves Bissouma for need number two.
I favour the Argentine, purely as he is more used to the English leagues and the Brighton player seems a perfect foil for Partey in the longer term.
Idrissa Gueye, who is unsettled at PSG, also fits the profile perfectly.
Any activity comes down to available money and reducing the wage bill and I think with the exits being primarily loans, until the summer, Arteta too may have to utilise that medium this month.
If we can bring in only one of the two now, then I think it needs to be the experienced link between the midfield and attack to challenge Smith Rowe.
This window is about balancing the books, trimming the wage bill, and moving on the players Arteta does not see in his plans.
If he and Edu can do that and push on with the current group, then I believe the board will back the duo in the summer window.
As so often in the latter years of Arsene Wenger, the squad is only one or two quality players away from being one capable of challenging.
The difference now is that Arteta does acknowledge the weaknesses I believe, and he genuinely has a more exciting core of young talent than any new manager inherited since George Graham in 1987.
If he can show he can develop and integrate these young stars for the remainder of this season I am confident KSE will back him come June to supplement with high quality.
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