Arsenal FC: Grading the Gunners' January Transfer Window Activity
Stuttering into January on the back of a shaky first half of the season, it was clear that Arsenal would need to take full advantage of the transfer window in order to add some depth and quality to a thin squad.
With Olivier Giroud the only out-and-out striker at the club, it was clear that Arsenal needed to bring in some more attacking firepower as they were strongly linked to David Villa throughout the transfer window, as well as a move for Demba Ba before Chelsea triggered the Newcastle striker's release clause.
In the end, the only forward that Arsenal signed during the transfer window was their own Theo Walcott, who finally put his contract saga to an end by putting pen to paper on a new deal to keep him at the Emirates for the long run.
While it may not seem as exciting as a David Villa or a Demba Ba, Theo Walcott is currently enjoying his best season in an Arsenal shirt, with 18 goals in all competitions making him the Gunners' top scorer.
So while Arsenal would have done well to add another striker to their ranks, extending Theo Walcott's contract was a must, and for once, the club kept hold of one of their key players.
Another place Arsene Wenger could have and should have strengthened during the transfer window was at centre-back—Arsenal have been leaking goals left and right this season, as they've seemed to forget how to defend at times. On paper, Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny all seem to be solid defenders, but on the pitch individual errors are constantly costing Arsenal wins.
In my opinion, Arsene Wenger would have been wise to snap up Mapou Yanga-M'biwa from Montpellier.
Arsenal were, of course, linked to the French international (it seems like just about every footballer in Europe is linked to Arsenal during transfer windows), but in the end it was Newcastle who signed the centre-back.
It's moments like those where you have to wonder: for the player's quality and relatively cheap price, why wasn't Arsenal seriously interested? The same goes for Demba Ba, a proven goalscorer with a release clause of £7.5 million—why did Arsenal not even compete for his signature?
Another type of player Arsenal seemed to be in the market for was a defensive midfielder—the Gunners are yet to find the next Patrick Vieira, and have considerably lacked that combative edge in midfield since the Frenchman's departure in 2005.
Abou Diaby resembles Vieira in his long legs and stride, but injuries have prevented him from reaching half the career of his compatriot.
West Ham's Mohamed Diame was the midfielder that Arsenal were most strongly linked to, but in the end nothing materialized. To be honest, it's not too much of a concern for the Gunners.
Midfield seems to be the place where Arsenal have the most depth, with Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin all currently contesting for three spots in Arsene Wenger's starting lineup.
Going into transfer deadline day, it looked as if Arsene Wenger's business—or lack thereof—in the transfer window was done, but he surprised us all with a deal for Malaga's Spanish left-back, Nacho Monreal. This move was likely spurred on by the injury to first-choice left-back Kieran Gibbs and the terrifying thought of Andre Santos having a lengthy run in the first team.
Although it may seem like a panic buy, the signing of Monreal is a good piece of business by Arsene Wenger.
Capped nine times by Spain—no easy feat in the national team's golden generation—Monreal is an excellent left-back, solid in defense but also a threat on attack. His last game for Malaga saw him score one goal and assist another.
Arsenal's Final Transfer Window Grade: C-
While Arsene Wenger managed to salvage something from the window with the late acquisition of Monreal, it seems "Le Professeur" was missing the plot. Arsenal desperately needed two or three new players to revamp their season—a striker was an absolute must. How Wenger didn't sign one still baffles me.
The contract extension of Walcott was a smart move, but that should just be a given: As a top-class club, Arsenal should be able to keep their key players without making it the marquee act of the transfer window. The Walcott contract saga should have been concluded months ago, shifting the focus in January to bringing in a new striker rather than spending half the month trying to convince the Englishman to "Sign Da Ting."
If Arsenal can somehow get into the top four for yet another season, it'll be remarkable.
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