January transfer window open

The transfer window is open but I’m not sure if I expect too many moves for Arsenal and especially nothing major. Of course, I’d love to be wrong but January is rarely the time for big money moves at our club (with a notable exception) and given Arsenal’s specific needs, it will be even more difficult to find someone to fit the bill.

Arsenal supporters have been asking the club to buy a world-class midfielder since, well, since Vieira left and to be fair we’ve had a few. Cesc Fabregas was easily our best of the post-invincibles era, followed by Santi Cazorla, but since Cazorla left, we’ve struggled to find the perfect guy to fit that position.

Xhaka was brought in to much fanfare – and quite a few warnings that he’s prone to smooth-brain mistakes – and unusually for an Arsenal transfer he’s managed to both live-up-to and live-down-to those expectations. In nine out of ten matches, he offers Arsenal good midfield control. In the tenth match, he dangles a leg out, trips a guy in the box, pulls a shirt, gets a stupid 2nd yellow, or flies in with a crazy tackle. He’s so notorious for these gaffes that Arsenal fans often say “if Xhaka had done that…” meaning that the league unfairly targets the Swiss MFer. But the reality is that this season he’s gotten away with far more than ever before including some rather atrocious late tackles and deliberate handballs.

But the reality is that finding an upgrade on Xhaka just isn’t going to be easy this January. As a testament to how difficult that task, Arsenal have been trying to find this mythical creature for years and everyone’s come up just a little short: Torreira, the shortest of all (I can make this joke, being a man of 174cm myself). But seriously, Guendouzi, Torreira, Partey, Sambi, Denis Suarez, and Ceballos were all brought in to play with or instead of Xhaka. And Xhaka, like the Minotaur at the middle of the Maze, has remained.

And the problems in CM are more pressing than just having a good player who makes a lot of mistakes. Rumors are swirling that Arsenal are going to let Ainsley Maitland-Niles move to Roma on loan. That means with Elneny and Partey going to AFCON, Arsenal will only have Xhaka and Sambi to cover. And as much as I love the Hale end guys like Pitino, it makes me nervous thinking that they would be first team players for a month.

There are targets mooted. Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa) is one and Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach) is another. I also know that you all have your dream targets and I hope that your dreams all come true! Personally, I’m giving up on stats scouting of players and since I can’t remember seeing these guys play (I have certainly seen them play, I just don’t remember their matches) I’ve got nothing to offer in terms of analysis. I just hope the leadership at the club will get the signing right, if they can.

A bigger problem (or just as big?) is the striker/center forward situation at Arsenal. There’s no question that Lacazette and Ødegaard have formed a nice little partnership. And also no question that Martinelli on the left has been pretty good. Better, in fact, than Auba because Martinelli is still fast and can dribble (even if he does so with his head down) and he only misses about the same number of shots. But long-term Arsenal need to replace Lacazette and Auba: Lacazette because we shouldn’t sign him to a new deal, given his age; and Auba because he’s completely fallen out with the manager, and even if they kiss and make up I think he’s pretty much done as a forward at the highest level.

Folks will say “Martinelli” or “Balogun” and there is merit to that suggestion: I love giving youngsters a chance at Arsenal. But for a club of Arsenal’s ambitions, it’s a pretty big gamble to hope that these two guys can get you 25+ goals (combined) and be the all-action center forward that Arsenal need. In fact, replacing Lacazette is going to be the big problem. We need a player who can mix it up with the big center backs of the League, who has good movement off the ball, and who can drop deep in midfield and has the touch and craft to play like a number 10.

These kinds of players are very rare and if you can find them they will probably be expensive. If you remember we spent £50m to get Lacazette and £70m to get Aubameyang last time. That shows how much it’s going to cost (if not more) but it also shows that it’s not impossible to find these guys and even to get quality players in January. But by the same token, we have only secured a major signing three times* (Reyes, Arshavin, Auba) in January in all my time following the Arsenal.

Maybe it will happen again, but I’m not holding my breath.


*Adebayor was a January signing but he took 18 months before he was a first choice starter


  1. If we’re going to make a move in January it should probably be for a midfielder – Partey has another injury in him, Xhaka is bound to get another red card, Elneny is on his way out. I’m not so sure I would let AMN go just yet unless there’s a real bargain out there.

    As for striker, I think there’s some reason to suspect theres truth to the Auba-to-Newcastle loan with option to buy… I’m guessing that’s all Newcastle will offer because if they end up going down they can’t keep Auba and Dembele and all the others they’re linked with. I think Jokic on loan from Madrid could be promising and a repeat of the Odegaard play. He’s certainly got the physical character to bang with CBs, he’s proven in the Bundesliga already even if he’s had a tough time at Real Madrid.

  2. Bravo! Only at 7amkickoff would one see a short joke and an allusion to the Minotaur in the same paragraph. While I enjoy Xhaka’s promotion from disaster waiting to happen to loveable bonehead here, it feels like the ratio of his midfield control to boneheaded mistakes costing points is more like 4:1, not 9:1.

    Happy new year to Tim and everyone else.

  3. Ainsley should only be allowed out on loan at the end of January, if at all. It would be madness to let him go. His last appearance he got a motm, he’s a solid fill in for Partey and IMO better than Elneny.

    On the striker front, I notice than Alexander Isak has scored 4 and assisted 2 in 17 games, which seems underwhelming given all the summer rumour fanfare. But on the other hand, maybe that could push the price down? I’m m sure he’d be cheaper than DCL anyway, who I’m not fully convinced by, despite having many of the attributes (on paper) we require.

  4. If Im Aubameyang’s agent, Im getting on the phone to Thomas Tuchel. If there’s one thing his excellent team is lacking — with Lukaku apparently on the outs — is a proven front man. He worked with Auba in Germany, and they had an excellent relationship. He was asked about it by a reporter a couple of weeks ago, and he spoke glowingly of Auba.

    Auba and Arteta’s relationship is irretrievably broken. I’ve no interest in strengthening Chelsea, but this is a realistic, pragmatic look at how this could be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. I’d prefer Auba to come back and play a part in the squad, but the fallout seems too serious.

    If Im Auba, I wouldnt want to play for Arteta anyway. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Arteta is totally correct and justified in punishing him and stripping him of the captaincy. The problem is that punishments have sentences, and sentences have terms. Auba, the team, the club and the fans do not know, game by game, if he’s playing. When he’s playing next. When he’s returning. That is wrong. Give the guy a ban for one month, five games, whatever. Why the Agatha Christie drama? AFCON must have been a relief to the player.

    Anyway, our midfield. The thing we really should do is the thing that we won’t… bring back Hothead Guendouzi, who, after Partey, may currently be the best midfielder on the Gunners’ books. Two things… not sure that the loan agreement with Marseilles permits it, one… two, he and Arteta can’t stand each other. But Guen’s game has taken enormous strides forward, in a way that would surprise gooners who haven’t been paying attention. And given the way that Arteta has deployed Xhaka ahead of Partey in our midfield, this season’s Guen is perfect for that role, in competition/cover with the Swiss. Elneny and AMN are nowhere near Guendouzi’s level, and he’s currently balling more effectively than Granit (although Xhaka has been good since his return to the side).

    We’re unlikely to buy quality in January, and Guen likely wont be back as long as Mikel’s in charge, so who do we buy in the summer? A two-footed, mobile maestro like Locatelli, please. And we need to splash cash on a world class centre forward. It’s doubtful that that either would be available in January. Partey will be absent, but only for a month. The problem isnt that absence (manageable in the period). It’s his fragility. We should keep AMN, plus use the options (Azeez being another) that we have out on loan. Denis Suarez and Ceballos type bridgingg loans havent exactly worked us, but boy did Odegaard’s.

    (p.s. Auba and Dembele arent going to Newcastle. Those fellas arent swapping Barcelona and North London for a northeast England relegation scrap).

    1. Not sure the fascination with Guendouzi… sometimes you have to accept that a talented player can also be a struggle to accommodate from a personality/chemistry standpoint. He is/was a temperamental hothead with an inflated ego and a history of clashing with coaches, not just Arteta. He was buddies with Auba and Laca and both seem are moving on. And besides, I thought it was reported that our agreement with Marseilles was a loan with a £10m option to buy. At that price there is no way Marseilles don’t exercise the option unless we have a clause in the agreement that allows us to back out. Even still, he’s worth about £25m according to Transfermarket and I’d rather take that money and move on, that would represent an excellent profit.

      I don’t see Guendouzi or Saliba coming back.

  5. I also doubt Guendo returns, and not just because of the antipathy towards Arteta and vice versa. I think Arteta has a very specific idea of what he wants as CM to replace Xhaka, and it starts with being left footed – or at least very two footed. Passing angles and positional discipline necessitate this. He likes very technical players, as we’ve seen with Tomi, White, and even Ramsdale. As Tim said, ‘the reality is that finding an upgrade on Xhaka just isn’t going to be easy this January’ Having said that, Edu and MA8 have done extremely well with finding players. I hope they have the same success with cm’s and strikers they’ve had with the back line.

    1. They’ve killed it on key recruitments. Tomi… my goodness, what a player. He’s one reason why we fans should never get too specific about who we should buy. What do we know? Who, in all honesty, had heard of him before we bought him? He’s our best RB since Bacary Sagna, and streets ahead of Hector, AMN, Cedric, Chambers or anyone we’ve deployed there recently.

      Ramsdale was a super buy, Ode was a steal at his price, Sambi at his price and with his upside represents great value. White is good, just not £55m good. Overpaid here, I fear. Cost twice as much as Gabriel? I mean we can see from their partnership that the price differential was absurd. But overall, they’ve shopped well.

      Auba was a rare instance of buying top shelf in January. I dont expect anything apart from a loan of a goodish continental player not getting enough minutes. It’s Arteta’s kind of thing.

      Agree on the two footed mid. It’s why I mentioned a Locatelli.

      1. Realistically and based on past history, Italians don’t move abroad aside from some notable exceptions nor do they choose a British team over Juventus. If we’re going to successfully pry a midfielder from Juventus it will be Arthur, who I think would mesh quick with the Brazilians we have and is the right age profile, but who doesn’t have the engine for the Premier League inmho.

  6. Thanks Tim!

    The Luiz rumor has a lot of credibility. Arteta worked with him at City and while he’s gone under my radar at Villa he feels like he might be too good for that club.

    Also I have a feeling that we are looking for a specific kind of DM for Xhaka’s replacement, I don’t think we will see a like for like. Someone who’s happy to sit while Partey goes forward. Partey was huge, he looked better than De Bruyne and Silva the other day, if we can get him playing with more freedom I think he can be special.

    My only question is whether, in fact, we are looking to replace Xhaka at all right now. I think most of us would like an upgrade but he’s doing well enough in most areas and very well in some, and we have Lokonga and AMN (at the moment) to slot in for AFCON. I’d be surprised if AMN left just at the time he’s likely to get minutes.

    Priority has to be the striker, and there were should be looking at someone with the hold up play and number 10 skills, like Tim says. We have enough goal threat now from Saka, ESR, Gabi and Odegaard that I wouldn’t want another Auba or an Isak, I think. I have no idea who we might be looking at, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was someone a bit left field like Ramsdale or Tomi.

    On the other hand I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Lautaro Martinez rumours had something in them, and if we pulled off a top 4 finish we might even stand a chance of bagging someone of that stature in the summer – a good reason to keep our powder dry in January.

    Claude, just because we don’t know if or when Auba’s coming back, it doesn’t mean that Auba, the club and the team don’t. Things could be crystal clear inside the club. We aren’t supposed to know everything and that’s fine, although like Tim I suspect the lack of information means that we are trying to move him on.

    You’re absolutely right, the recruitment has been scarily good this year.

    1. Happy new year, Greg. I hope that it 2022 you ask more questions of the unusual and dysfunctional at Arsenal FC. That said, predictability can be a virtue, no? 🙂

      It clearly hasnt been communicated to Auba if/when he’ll play again. And Im saying that the man should be given a sentence, and that approach is wrong. The player’s interests matter as well, do they not?

      From what has been publicly communicated about the reasons for the disciplinary breach, doesnt an indeterminate rolling ban strike you as at best unusual? How ’bout we look at the available facts and not guess?

      1. i get what greg is saying. the club may have clearly let aubameyang know when his ban is up but simply haven’t made it public knowledge; it’s not anyone else’s business. you say the club hasn’t let auba know what his punishment is but how do you know that? that’s what greg is saying. arteta has come up with a line to give the media without putting club business out there, which i don’t have a problem with. personally, i haven’t heard anything auba’s had to say about the situation but i’m not on instagram or anything like that.

        1. He’s kept a dignified silence. No sly trolling either, like Ozil. Neither Auba nor the squad has been told. I have my sources. That aside, there’s no way he’s told the squad and the club and its not out there. its funny your asking me how I know that, when you (and Greg) are guessing your heads off about stuff, and conjecturing favourable narratives.

          You guys will come up with any excuse for dysfunction, won’t you?

          1. what on earth are you going on about? how should we know that neither auba nor the squad has been told what auba’s punishment is? you implied that your knowledge was based on a source that we clearly don’t have access to. if we don’t have your source, how can we come to the same conclusion that you have? surely, you can appreciate that we can only rationalize based on conventional wisdom and what we know.

            by the way, you’ve never heard me excuse dysfunction or offer a fake narrative over the truth. i think you got me confused with someone else.

          2. Claude, HNY to you too. I love your take on the game and the players, your way with words, your own mini write-ups are great and you see things that I miss.

            But conversations between us now go like this:

            Person A: x happening is a stain on our noble club

            Person B: but we don’t know that x happened. It’s just your speculation. For example, y could be true instead.

            Person A: ha, so you believe y? Such naivety. y is just speculation and only a fool would believe it. Stop trying to excuse x which very definitely happened.

            Person B: But we don’t know x, it’s just your speculation… And I don’t believe y, that’s not what I said

            Person A: You y-fanatic.

            It’s completely maddening, and I’m tired of playing along.

            But if you do have a source that is feeding you some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that you claim to be obviously true from publicly available evidence, all I can say is that it explains a lot.

  7. like wenger, i hate the january window. don’t expect arsenal to make any power moves as most teams aren’t willing to give up their best players in the middle of a campaign but you never know. wenger was very clever to get mkhi, as i don’t think arsenal get auba without mkhi and the whole “yo, pierre” campaign. that was absolutely brilliant! however, it didn’t make arsenal better; simply allowed arsenal to replace alexis’ goals…and it was still very expensive…and arsenal lost alexis for nothing.

    a little more than a year ago, i said arsenal should have extended lacazette on higher wages through 2023 with the option of an additional year. it’s a deal i believe he would have taken because, although he loses some control, he gets great money up front. if not, arsenal needed to sell him last summer. arsenal did neither and this is an issue with the arsenal management team. they’re losing their biggest assets for nothing because of how they’re being managed. mesut, laca, and auba are three of the 4 biggest expenditures in arsenal’s transfer history and they’re out the door for nothing because management allowed their value to diminish. when klopp came to liverpool, i knew coutinho didn’t fit his scheme. but when he went to barcelona, they didn’t lose him for nothing. that’s all i’m going to say about that.

    back to the topic at hand, i’d quietly bid £50 million plus ainsley on loan for yves bissouma. after afcon, he comes back to north london and that improves arsenal’s midfield significantly. i say quietly because it gives brighton the chance to move freely to replace bissouma without stirring up a mess of clubs pricing players out of a potential move. even if he goes in january, brighton should stay up. if we can make this happen at the very end of the transfer window, it suits both clubs. the only issue i have is the potential legal issues surrounding the player and his entourage. the last thing i’d want is a benjamin mendy situation at arsenal. likewise, rumor has steven gerrard interested in bring him to villa…but would he really choose villa over arsenal? who knows. buendia did. we’ll see.

    1. i’d prefer declan rice but that’s a summer move, as west ham are still in contention for a top 4 place. however, if bissouma is unavailable and arsenal finish in the top 4, declan rice would be near the top of my transfer wish list. once again, we’ll see.

      1. Rice is gold. I think he may well have his choice of clubs in the Summer. And Wham could pocket £100M.

        With you on Bissouma. Been banging that drum for a while. Athleticism is so important in this league unless you’re a magician like Santi.

      2. Declan Rice is amazing both by the eye test and the stats. I mentioned his name on twitter the other day and Arseblog replied that he thinks he’s going to Chelsea.

        Funnily enough, I also mentioned Bissouma and someone reminded me that he has a rape charge which is set for trial soon.

        1. I could see Rice at any club. If I were him I’d prefer City or Liverpool. I don’t see Chelsea winning the league when Pep or Klopp are around.

          You have to admire how much money generate and spend. Twenty years ago they were always in our rear view mirror….

          I wasn’t aware of the Bissouma charge.

      3. Never in a million years. Will cost a fortune – West Ham have a bit of money now with new ownership – and United have a tremendous need for a midfielder with his profile. We’re not shopping at that end of the market.

        1. Rice is a Chelsea youth player, bestie with Mason Mount and their training ground is not far from his parents / where he grew up. No question he goes there if they come asking.

          I’d love him at Arsenal but don’t honestly see it happening – think he’d be more likely to pick Man Utd or Liverpool if Chelsea aren’t interested.

          I didn’t know that about Bissouma either. Even if cleared, at face value I’m not sure it speaks well to the type of character I want around our young team.

          Speaking of which I wonder if we could get 2 or 3 years out of Kanté if Chelsea do buy Rice this summer.

    2. specifically, if i were arsenal, i’d contact declan rice’s agent and put the idea in his head in january…just to give him food for thought. the biggest problem with rice is he’s gonna be super expensive, but i love the kid.

  8. I don’t see any permanent signings incoming.

    Ideally we get an experienced midfielder (Gini Wijnaldum ?) on loan and make those long term striker and midfielder signings in the summer

  9. Kroenke has been maxxing the company credit card. As of April 2021 Arsenal owed £154M and were due £47M for transfer payments. Only Spuds had a higher net debt. For reference the balance was negligible when Wenger left. Kroenke’s leveraging the club with debt, hopefully debt that he’s under-writing and prepared to write down should it be required.

    After the Summer splurge the transfer balance could well be closer to £200M owed (likely the highest transfers debt in the league). There’s going to come a time soon when Arsenal have to offset purchases with big sales.

    1. indeed. it’s the gripe i have with how arsenal would allow players as valuable as mesut, laca, and auba leave for free. it’s absurd! it’s also when you reel in a rookie manager and tell him what he’s gonna do with the assets the club has paid for. the current arsenal manager has minimized those player’s market values.

  10. Isn’t Renato Sanches realistic for CM? Nobody has mentioned him. We have lots of Portuguese speakers on the team, he’s a nice blend of skill and athleticism and he’s wanting out of Lille. I figure summer would be better for pricing, but we could pry him loose if we really wanted to this month.

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