January Transfer Window: How Arsenal Can Strengthen For a Title
With Arsenal currently locked in at number three in the Premier League, there seems to be an added emphasis this season to bolster a team that can and will finally win a trophy after almost five seasons of 'close, but no cigar'.
However, with the January transfer window at its midpoint, Arsenal are still looking toward adding a center back after Thomas Vermaelen suffered yet another setback to his long-term Achilles injury, which has already ruled him out for almost five months, and injuries to Sébastien Squillaci haven't helped the cause either.
Offensively Arsenal have lacked a little in the last few weeks, especially from the left side. And despite Wenger stating that he is "desperate" to retain the services of Andrey Arshavin, there are plenty of Arsenal fans that disagree with Lille winger Eden Hazard a leading candidate to eventually replace Arshavin in the future.
So looking onwards here are some candidates that Mr. Wenger should consider before the window shuts and before it's too late.
Cahill who has had his way with most strikers this season helping his Bolton Wanderers team to seventh place in the league and fighting for a Europa League spot for next season. Cahill at 6 ft 2" has shown his ariel ability all season as well as his pure grit and determination to get the job done alongside his teammates to yield one of the best defenses in the Premier League.
Arsenal seem to have a good working relationship with Bolton and Owen Coyle who will surely be considered as a leading candidate to succeed Arsene Wenger when he's done. The capture of Jack Wilshere last season helped Bolton survive after it looked an almost certainty that they would be relegated. Therefore, Cahill would be a leading candidate, possibly with a deal of around £10 million plus the possibility of Carlos Vela joining Bolton on loan for the remainder of the season.
Likelihood of Transfer: 55%
The German international has already discussed his admiration for the Premier League and how much he would love to grace these shores, and with Arsenal supposedly highly interested in the 6 ft 6" defender from Werder Bremen it's no wonder why after his brilliant performances during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa last summer.
Mertesacker would bring an added element to an Arsenal team lacking in a certain area, height. He would instantly be a help against set-piece plays in which Arsenal have continued to struggle all season long as well as being a helpful target for set-pieces of their own in which they don't seem to get enough production. Add that to the threat of players like Chamakh, Song, Djourou, Bendtner and Vermaelen when he comes back, and you have a significant threat in the air as well as along the ground in which Arsenal are already dominant.
Samba is widely known around the Premier League for being a 'beast' for his sheer size and strength. No other Premier League defender is built quite like the man from Congo. Standing at 6 ft 4" he is one of the most commanding center backs already in the Premier League, and adding him to an Arsenal defence which draws criticism for being 'soft' at times will surely silence some pundits.
Samba has been very vocal of late expressing his displeasure with the sacking of Sam Allardyce and asking to leave the club, but with several other teams interested in Samba's services, it will be a race to capture his signature.
Samba does have some previous history with Arsenal after scoring a goal in which he bullied Arsenal keeper Lukas Fabianski off the ball to score, however Wenger would be wise to cast aside his differences and look to capture the Congolese defender.
Despite only being signed by Real Madrid last season, Jose Mourhinio went out this summer and secured the services of his former Chelsea center back Ricardo Carvalho meaning that Albiol had to take a seat on the bench for the most part of Real Madrid's 2010-11 campaign.
And while Albiol is currently happy at Real Madrid, his chances of playing time increase significantly at Arsenal, and add that his World Cup teammate and friend Cesc Fabregas is captain of the club, it may seem like an exciting challenge for the 25-year-old 6 ft 3 defender.
It may take around a £10-15 million offer to secure the services of Albiol, but it would definitely make a great deal of sense for Arsenal and for Albiol who needs the playing time.
An under-the-radar player who could come in and help out proving for some depth behind the main core of defenders at Arsenal could provide some well-needed depth as well as filling in from time to time.
While Mateos will never be allowed to leave Real Madrid nor will he want to with such a promising future ahead of him, a club like Arsenal may just be the big-club experience that he needs in order to be ready to play for Real Madrid having only played for them once in his young career.
It is not often that players are loaned out to Arsenal, usually vice-versa, but this could be one instance where it could happen.
Gabbi Milito is a forgotten man at Barcelona, having made only six appearances all season. It is clearer than daylight that his days in Barcelona are likely to be numbered, and Milito himself has been convinced that he needs to look elsewhere to revive his career and what better club than Arsenal? A club that holds almost the exact same values as Barcelona, with a proven manager and defensive frailties in which to correct.
Milito could bring experience to an Arsenal team that is lacking in that department at the back. Milito could come in and instantly be a leader of the defence. At only 5 ft 11, he is undersized and working alongside Thomas Vermaelen could leave the defence susceptible to set pieces and the height of the Premier Leagues premier strikers such as Didier Drogba, Eden Dzeko, Fernando Torres and Dimitar Berbatov.
However the capture of Milito on a loan deal until the end of the season would be a beneficial signing for the Gunners adding key depth and experience to the squad.
Sakho, the 20-year-old French international has been highly compared to Lillian Thuram and has drawn high praise from a lot of pundits in France raving about his performaces. At a young age, he is already the vice-captain of PSG learning from Claude Makelele, showing that he is clearly a leader. He is also a physical presence at 6 ft 2 with great strength and tactical awareness that Wenger will surely appreciate.
Wenger will have surely kept an eye on Sakho, who will eventually look to leave Paris for a bigger club, and Arsenal might just be that club. Wenger who typically has his way with French young players, as 99 times out of 100 they "want" to play for him, and he has drawn lengendary status among French players as the greatest French manager of all time.
Joining Arsenal would probably be a dream come true for Sakho having already played with Bacary Sagna, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy on national duty, completing what would be an almost all French back line.
The young Englishman would be an ideal fit for Arsenal heading towards the future, and at only 18 years old, he is a fantastic prospect who has already proven he can play with the big guns of the Premier League for many years to come. A product of the Blackburn Youth system, he spends most of his playing time in the defensive midfield position but will likely move to center back with more experience.
A tough, gritty defender will be highly courted in future years by the big clubs and with Blackburn already insisting he is not for sale it would likely take an offer of around £15 million to lure him away from Ewood Park. Personally Jones reminds me of Martin Keown in his style of play which I'm sure Arsene Wenger would admire.
Offensively Arsenal are fairly comfortable where they are at, so to be brief as it is unlikely they will bring someone in to add to the offensive side of the ball with Aaron Ramsey coming back from his loan spell at Nottingham Forest and with Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky due back from injury soon. However here are some of the candidates to look out for:
The young Belgian winger has drawn plenty of interest from Arsenal with Wenger very quiet on the subject, which typically means that he is looking closely at the 20-year-old's progress at Lille this season. An offer is likely to be handed in during the summer as Andrey Arshavin continues to struggle for form, and turning 30 this year means it is unlikely that Wenger will keep him for much longer.
The 17-year-old winger is another hot prospect from Southampton that Arsenal are chasing along with other Premier League Clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Fulham. The Saints' manager Nigel Atkins has already hinted that Chamberlain will be sold to Arsenal in order to get the best out of the young talent and to nurture his talents correctly as they did with Theo Walcott. If Arsenal do manage to seal his signing in January, it's almost certain that he will stay at Southampton until the end of the season in order to aid their push for promotion back into the Championship.
To conclude, in the short term, a loan signing would make a great deal of sense, whether it be for experience in Gabbi Milito or a talented young defender like Mateos. It isn't often that Arsenal sign players on loan, and with Arsenal competing against Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Champions League, it makes it even harder for the London club.
As a long-term solution, Wenger is spoilt for choice with several big name players available, but ultimately I would look towards a player like Phil Jones, a young (19) English talent that has already experienced life in the Premier League. With Blackburn unwilling to let him go, I wouldn't be surprised to see Wenger make moves for Sakho, Gary Cahill and Raul Albiol to bolster his defence this January.