The January Transfer Window is finally here and it couldn't have come quick enough for Arsenal, as the fate of the Gunners' title challenge rests on manager Arsene Wenger acquiring a new defender. If Arsenal are to break their notorious five-year trophy drought, then they need quality centre halves.
In what has been a stellar start for the North London giants in 2010/2011 mixed in with some horrific, inconsistent performances, Arsene Wenger's men sit third in the English Premier League table, with only two points separating them from first-place Manchester United. Furthermore, the Gunners have a game in hand to big spenders Manchester City, who are in second.
Arsenal have also qualified for the next stage of the UEFA Champions League alongside reaching the semifinal of the League Cup, where Wenger's men will encounter Championship side Ipswich Town this month.
This relative success has all come off the back of one of the shakiest, worst central defences in England. Of course, this would not be the case if fitness had not played its part. Wenger has been without defensive leader and renown enforcer Thomas Vermaelen since August and the 25 year old's absence has told.
The Belgium has endured a persistent Achilles injury suffered whilst on international duty. Vermaelen was expected to be the leader and main instigator in the Arsenal backline after enjoying a stellar first season last campaign, in which the Belgium captain was named in the PFA Team of the Year.
However, Vermaelen's injury has ensured Wenger's two summer defensive signings have been forced to take on the centre half roles. Little known French defender Laurent Koscienly, who arrived from Lorient FC for £10 million, and experienced defender Sebastien Squillaci, who departed Spanish giants Sevilla to join the Gunners for £3.2 million, have been the main reasons why Arsenal do not lead the EPL table.
Realistically, the pair are Wenger's third and fourth choice central defenders. Imposing Swiss Johan Djourou has been superb this season after 2009/2010 saw the 23 year old absent for every game barring the last one due to a serious knee injury. However Djourou's recent injury has ensured Wenger's tentative approach and the Frenchman rightly so refuses to use the Swiss international on a consistent basis, despite a superb performance against Chelsea.
So with one defender barely able to walk and the other still lacking 100 percent fitness, the French duo have been forced to take the reigns. Laurent Koscienly has shown promising signs and has all the traits to be a strong defender, but his Arsenal career start has been tainted by inconsistency, poor positioning and error-prone ways.
Sebasien Squillaci, on the other hand, has had a horrid start to his Arsenal career. The Frenchman has failed to cope with the pace and physicality of the English game and has been at fault for a number of Arsenal losses and goals.
With Vermaelen not expected to return to the fray until late January, and even then the Belgium will need time to regain fitness and power, Arsenal need a solution to their central defensive woes fast and it can come in the January transfer window.
1. Mamadou Sakho: Paris Saint Germain
Wenger has been a keen admirer of the PSG centre half for sometime now along with a host of other managers. It's fair enough, at the mere age of 20, that the French defender has already played over 100 games for the French side and is regarded as a key figure and leader in their line up.
Blessed with impressive speed and strength along with a tenacious, yet elegant style, Sakho would be an ideal defensive prospect for Wenger as the asking price is unlikely to exceed £15 million.
Sakho would help reinforce strength and pace in the Arsenal backline as well as providing added depth and a composed, experienced head.
2. Phil Jagielka: Everton
Arsene Wenger worked tirelessly to attract the 28-year-old centre half during the Summer, but David Moyes refused to accept the offered bids. However, come January, it may be a different story should the Toffees continue their run of poor form.
The English defender is a small, yet tenacious defender who boast a similar playing style to Arsenal's defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen. The England international has spent the five seasons in the Premier League, as well as playing over 400 games in England.
Although the price range would come to around £12-20 million, Wenger may be able to mitigate the cost by offering Everton the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Carlos Vela or Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on loan.
3. Gary Cahill: Bolton
The England international has been a hugely reliable and consistent figure in the Bolton defence for a number of seasons now, ensuring the 24 year old's reputation has been catapulted sky high with a number of big-name clubs chasing Cahill's signature.
Blessed with an imposing 6'2" figure and admirable strength, the former Aston Villa defender could provide Arsenal with the consistent physical presence they lack. Due to Cahill's integral role with Bolton, the price would be nearing £13 million; however Trotters manager Owen Coyle is a fan of a number of Arsenal's youngsters, which means Wenger would be able to offer numerous loan spells.
4. Jan Vertonghen: Ajax
At 23, Vertonghen still has a glistening future ahead of him, especially as the Belgium is regarded as one of the best young defensive prospects in Europe. Furthermore the Ajax man is blessed with great strength and speed, which the Arsenal defence currently seems to lack.
The Belgium international has been a prominent figure in the Ajax backline and has been widely touted with a move to the Premier League for a while now. Vertonghen also boast a close friendship with Thomas Vermaelen, as the pair were former Ajax teammates as well as both playing regularly for Belgium.
The pair boast similar styles of play, predominantly in physical terms, and are no stranger to one another. If Arsenal were able to acquire Vertonghen, a strong relationship with Vermaelen is almost certain to occur.
A number of clubs are touted to by vying for the Belgium’s signature; however Vertonghen is unlikely to attract a high fee with the asking price likely to be within £10-15 million.
That fee is well within Wenger’s price range furthermore as the latter states; it looms as a tremendously beneficial signing. Vertonghen is the typical type of Arsenal defender whose potential emulates former Arsenal captain and defender Tony Adams.
5. Christopher Samba: Blackburn
The DR Congo hard man would be an excellent addition to the Arsenal backline thanks to his physical playing style that thrives in Premier League. Samba also boast great skill and control aiding him attacking wise and enabling the 26 year old to play in a number of positions.
Considered one of the strongest and quickest centre halves in England, the former Berlin defender would provide a great presence when defending and attacking set pieces. Furthermore, Samba is currently the captain of Rovers, thus instilling added leadership and experience to the Arsenal defence.
However, it remains unseen whether the Blackburn captain would depart Ewood Park or if the fee would be to high for Wenger.
6. Neven Subotic: Borussia Dortmund
Wenger has been chasing the highly-touted Serbian for a number of seasons now, and potentially January could be the chance for him to land the 22 year old. Blessed with phenomenal strength and composure, Subotic has been an impressive, consistent performer in the German Bundesliga for a number of seasons.
At 6'4", the former Mainz 05 defender has a commanding presence, ideal to help diminish Arsenal's frailty in the air and off set pieces. The Dortmund centre half is also a natural leader with international experience too.
A number of clubs are chasing the Serbian star, which has prompted Borussia Dortmund to attach a hefty price tag on Subotic's head, ranging from £12-18 million. Wenger may be put off by the price tag, but there is no denying that Neven Subotic has a big future.
7. Philippe Mexès: AS Roma
The tenacious, aggressive Frenchman has been a consistent performer for Roma in the Serie A for over half a decade now, and many believe the 28 year old would thrive in the Premier League.
Boasting over 200 appearances for the Wolves, alongside over 160 in the French League and 18 appearances for France, Mexes is an experienced, powerful defender who thrives on physicality and strength.
The former Auxerre man does lack the height other defenders may but Mexes brings a calm, tenacious presence that cannot be undervalued. AS Roma regard their French centre half at around £10 million.
8. Richard Dunne: Aston Villa
One of the most respected and toughest defensive presences in Europe, Richard Dunne epitomizes strength and power. Currently with a struggling Villa outfit, Dunne may seek a way out from Villa park to a side in the top half of the table, challenging for title success.
Boasting over 300 appearances in the Premier League, Wenger would be acquiring a talent that is no stranger to the EPL's physicality and pace that the likes of Squillaci and Koscienly have struggled with at times.
Aston Villa manager Gerad Houiller has stated he is willing to offload the Irish centre half for around £8-10 million, a price well within Wenger's reach. At 6'2" Dunne has a commanding presence as well as great control, vision and a strong tackle.
Here is a great opportunity for Wenger to pounce and acquire a renown defensive prospect.
9. Adil Rami: Lille
Rami is a strong, tenacious defender with an imposing figure and great strength. For a number of seasons now, the Frenchman has been a consistent presence in the Lille backline, which has prompted a number of big name clubs, including Spanish giant Valencia and Liverpool, to take a great interest in the 6'3" centre half.
The 24 year old, who recently became a France international, is a typical Wenger signing: French, strong, intelligent and an able ball player. Lille regard their defender highly, but are said to be willingly to sell Rami in January for around £10-15 million.
Wenger has sufficient funds to target the former Frejus defender, who would surely help aid Arsenal's defensive woes. Blessed with a big frame that would benefit the Gunners from set pieces, as well as impressive pace an an admirable work rate, Adil Rami could be the saviour Arsenal need.
10. Michaël Ciani: Girondins de Bordeaux
The Frenchman is a strong, quick defender who has been a consistent performer in the French League for a number of seasons now. Currently with Bordeaux, the 26 year old is blessed with imposing strength and a giant header.
Ciani is also a natural leader who boasts a similar playing style to Thomas Vermaelen, but unlike the Belgium International, plays with a right foot. The French International would bring much needed power and presence to the Arsenal back line and can also provide a threatening figure off set pieces.
Ranging from around £8-12 million, Ciani is well within Wenger's price range and reach.
Wenger has been known to be stubborn, tentative and slow in transfer windows, but with a five-year trophy drought desperately needed to be broken, one can expect at least one of the latter to be signed this month.