Arsenal transfer window: No.9 not on the cards, Mudryk top target to fill Jesus’ void
As Arsenal wait for the January transfer window to open, how heavy is the same period 12 months ago on the minds of manager Mikel Arteta, sporting director Edu and the club’s owners?
Arsenal chose not to sign the deal at the time, instead allowing a number of players to leave the club, including star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It was a calculated gamble and one that backfired, with Arsenal being knocked out of the Champions League by arch-rivals Tottenham.
This winter window is closing in with Arsenal currently top of the Premier League table despite worrying injury news regarding Gabriel Jesus. It’s the defining moment of the season – will Arsenal take it?
He spends the last three January windows
Arsenal have historically done quite a lot in January. The likes of Jose Antonio Reyes, Andrei Arshavin and Theo Walcott have all joined in this mid-season window. However, recently, very few permanent signings have been made during this period – a reflection of the difficulties in reaching top targets at this time of year.
However, they have made sufficient use of the credit market. In January 2020, Arsenal signed Cedric and Pablo Mari on short-term contracts that would later become permanent. A year later, they took Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid earlier that summer and agreed to sign him on a permanent contract.
How much money can you have this month?
There were two signings that Arsenal pursued intensively in the summer that they failed to complete. The first was the signing of Leeds United winger Raphinha, who eventually joined Barcelona. They have indicated they are willing to spend in the region of £40-50m on the Brazil international.
Then, at the end of the window, they switched to another Brazilian: Douglas Luiz. As the minutes ticked away, Arsenal were prepared to pay around £30m for the midfielder, but to no avail. Aston Villa were uncompromising and Luiz has since signed a long-term contract with them.
Given that Arsenal could have completed at least one of these deals months ago, it’s fair to predict that there will be a significant budget for Arteta and Edu in January.
The club’s strong league position gives them an excellent chance of more European football next season – potentially returning to the Champions League after six years. The owners of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment may be willing to sanction the expense with confidence in the upcoming summer season.
Who makes the key decisions about signatures?
Arsenal’s recruitment process is designed to be managed by Edu. It is the Brazilian who has to synthesize the work done by the club’s team of analysts and scouts to identify the team’s needs, manager Arteta’s desire and the right players to watch.
When Arsenal ditched their existing scout team in the summer of 2020, the intention was to introduce a more streamlined, efficient process. That painful decision seems to have paid dividends as Arsenal’s recent transfer business has been largely successful.
As much as Edu deserves credit for the recruitment overhaul, many close to the club believe it is Arteta’s word that ultimately carries the most weight. In discussions and debates about potential signings, the Spaniard is trying to get his way. It’s not always the case, but if Arteta wants a player, it’s often the deciding factor.
Which position is preferred?
After Jesus’ injury at the World Cup, many fans were calling for a centre-forward. Arsenal don’t necessarily see it the same way: they don’t want to let a relatively short-term problem shape their team-building plans. So they don’t have a clean number 9 on their agenda.
Arsenal there is wanted an extra attacking player for some time, but one who works on the wings: a player who can provide cover and competition for the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. Arsenal let Nicolas Pepe join French club Nice in the summer, but the closest they’ve come to replacing him has been the addition of the promising but raw Marquinhos.
A new central midfielder is also on the agenda for 2023 – but with Tomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny currently fit, there is less urgency in that area. This is something to focus on more in the summer.
Who are valid targets?
Athletic They have already reported on Arsenal’s main target: Mykhailo Mudryk. Arteta and Edu are after the 21-year-old winger, who has been closely watched by the club for some time. Arsenal considered a summer move for the Ukraine international before attempting to sign Luiz when Partey and Elneny were ruled out through injury.
Mudric is excited about the prospect of a move to Arsenal. The problem is that his club, Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine, have publicly suggested they expect to pay €100m (£88m) for his services. Arsenal are not going to go that high, so they will rush to find a compromise.
High price tags can be a threat to this mid-season market.
Look at the reasonable alternatives to Mudryk in Europe, and none seem particularly cheap. Take Mohammed Kudus, the Ajax winger had a strong World Cup with Ghana and is being courted by clubs across Europe.
Manchester United set a problematic precedent when they bought Brazilian winger Antoni from the same Dutch club for 100 million euros in the summer.
Who could get out?
Arsenal have a relatively thin squad, so it would be surprising if they let many players leave in this window.
There may be a trip or two from the edge of things. Cedric found first-team opportunities difficult after Ben White moved to right-back. With Japan international Takehiro Tomiyasu also fighting for that defender spot, the 31-year-old could very well leave in the upcoming window.
Currently, the main candidates for his signature are Fulham. Staying in London and indeed the Premier League came to English football with Southampton in 2015 will appeal to the Portuguese international. However, there has been no official offer for his services yet.
Third-choice goalkeeper Karl Hein has expressed his desire to go out on loan to gain more first-team experience. Arsenal’s current stance is that he should remain as a cover – the decision to play the Estonian in the Carabao Cup tie against Brighton in November was made to demonstrate that he remains a valuable part of the squad.
Game time will be difficult for him in the second half of the season, so it will be worth watching to see if Arsenal’s stance softens towards the end of the window.
Which World Cup star would be perfect for your club…
Apart from Kudus, Arsenal could do worse than look at 24-year-old France international Randal Kolo Moani.
The Eintracht Frankfurt forward, a late call-up due to injuries to 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema and Christopher Nkunku, has made a significant impact during the tournament. He scored in the semi-final against Morocco and Argentina could have been the match-winner hero in the final had it not been for a great stoppage-time save from Arsenal’s old boy Emiliano Martinez.
When Athletic Looking for Jesus-like strikers, Kolo Muani has been mentioned as a potential alternative.
Remarkably, he is comfortable both out wide and in the middle: another versatile forward.
Kolo Muani only joined Frankfurt last summer on a free transfer from Nantes, but the Germans would consider offers that would allow them to make a quick and significant profit from him.
(Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)