Arsenal Transfer Prospects: 12 Things Wenger Would Love for Christmas
The matches increase in frequency, the weather intensifies with cold, campaigns are made and broken, everybody is excited and happy. But most of all it is Christmas time. However, most managers will have to wait deep into January before they can unveil their new gifts. Unfortunately for most it will not come down to whether they have been naughty or nice but if they have the funds and calibre to attract.
Almost every manager will have a large shopping list, and one man who is certain to is Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman and his men have shown tremendous spirit after starting their 2011/2012 campaign in horrific fashion, appearing as if destruction was set to engulf North London. However the Gunners have conveyed impressive form and have recorded 10 wins in 14 matches since October. The North London giants currently sit fourth and are more than capable of breaching the top three.
Wenger now turns half his attention to the January Transfer Window. With a £50 million transfer budget at his disposal, certain positions lacking and precarious contract situations, it is expected to be a hectic period of negotiating for the Arsenal manager. But just exactly what is on Arsene Wenger's Christmas list?
For many years it was the arrival of a quality keeper but that gift has certainly arrived thanks to Wojciech Szczesny whilst his defence has also desperately improved. Nonetheless, Bleacher Report acts in the spirit of the Christmas and establishes the 12 things Arsene Wenger wants under his tree.
12. A Quick and Painless Return for Jack Wilshere
What is even more remarkable about Arsenal's impressive form since October is that it has occurred with the absence of Jack Wilshere. The 19-year-old, who was last seasons PFA Young Player of the Year and Arsenal Player of the Year, despite it being Wilshere's first full season in English football, has not featured since the pre-season following ankle surgery.
The England international is easily the most talented, effective and efficient Arsena midfielder beside Alexandre Song and with a scheduled return in late January, the Gunners' will be significantly boosted by Wilshere's class.
However, there is no denying the severity of the teenager's injury and rehabilitation and fitness training will be essential upon return. But Wenger will be eager to maximize Arsenal's chances of securing a top-three finish and that can be done with the injection of Jack Wilshere.
Therefore Wenger will be hoping that should Santa come than a fit Jack Wilshere is what arises.
11. A New Club for Manuel Almunia
For the first time in over half a decade, Arsene Wenger is enduring a positive conundrum with his goalkeepers. After seasons of scrutiny and criticism for the lack of quality between the posts, the Frenchman now has four capable keepers vying for the No. 1 jersey.
Polish shot-stopper Wojciech Szczesny has of course glued down the role since the beginning of the year and the 21-year-old has been in immense form since the 2011/2012 began. Deputy Lukasz Fabianski is the credible deputy who, if not for a season-ending shoulder injury last season, could still be the current Arsenal first-choice keeper.
However Veteran Manuel Almunia, who from 2008 to early last season was considered the Gunners' prominent keeper, despite huge criticism and inconsistency, has dropped well down the pecking order and is basically awaiting for January to arrive in order to secure a departure.
The Spaniard earlier impressed on loan with Championship side West Ham this season but is unlikely to ever add to his impressive 173 appearances for the Gunners. Wenger dislikes lingering players who are unable to receive playing time and in January the Frenchman will hope that some one has Manuel Almunia on their Christmas list.
10. Right Back Fitness
Injuries seem to favour Arsenal more than most English Premier League clubs. This season however has not conjured the usual injury decimation that has become so apparent for the Gunners'. None the less there is still a harsh December and January of ten games to overcome.
The defensive line has endured the worst, particularly the right back position. Thanks to a broken ankle sustained in January to first choice Bacary Sagna followed by a back complaint to deputy Carl Jenkinson soon after, Arsene Wenger has been forced to use centre halves Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny as the Arsenal right backs.
Sagna is not expected to sufficiently return until the December and credit must go to the North London giants for coping efficiently without the presence of such quality and consistency in attack and defence. Jenkinson on the other hand is expected to achieve prime fitness by the end of the month. The 19-year-old has impressed after a suprise move from Charlton Athletic in the Summer.
Whilst both Djourou and Koscielny have performed strongly as makeshift right backs, Wenger will be eager for the returns of his routine right backs.
9. The African Cup of Nations Is Called off
Well not quite. Arsene Wenger probably does not wish to see the event which shows the beauty and standard of African football called off but none the less the Frenchman will be stressing during the competition, and rightly so.
African Nations Cup sees Wenger lose Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh and potentially Emmanuel Frimpong from January 21st to February 15th. Three prominent squad members during a time where games are fast and frequent and only a victory will suffice.
What is more stressful is Wenger is dependent on the trio returning with full fitness. There is every chance injuries, even minor ones, could be sustained and impede a quick return into regular playing duties. This ensures Arsenal have a weakened and short squad for a period of English Premier League, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup football.
8. An Extended Contract for Theo Walcott
Arsene Wenger has some lingering precarious contract conundrum regarding key players and after Samir Nasri's Summer display, the Frenchman will be eager to have them sorted. Nasri departed to Manchester City for £25 million after his contract was set to expire at the end of the season, ensuring Wenger risk losing the midfielder on a Bosman transfer after Nasri refused to extend.
Walcott will enter an identical situation at the end of this season fortunately for Wenger and Arsenal the Englishman is not as money orientated and lacking integrity like Samir Nasri. However Wenger will be eager to secure the 22-year-old on a long term deal.
The England international is in strong form boasting four goals in 21 appearances this term, this follows a hugely successful 2010/2011 which amassed thirteen goals in 38 appearances. Walcott is arguably one of the fastest wingers in World Football and has begun showing a more clinical side, enabling him to become a dynamic attacking weapon.
However Nasri departed for money first and foremost but the Frenchman became increasingly frustrated with the lack of silverware and big name players at the club. Nasri is now playing Europa League. There is every chance Walcott may desire a change however the former Southampton youth has expressed his desire to negotiate with Wenger.
The Arsenal manager will be hoping that both Walcott and himself can enjoy the present of an new long term contract.
7. A New Club for Sebastien Squillaci
Sebastien Squillaci is set to go down as one of Arsene Wenger's transfer flops as a departure in January appears imminent.
The Frenchman, who was signed from Spanish giants Sevilla last summer for £3.2 million, has never sufficiently adapted to English Premier League football and is currently regarded as the Gunners' sixth-choice central defender.
The 31-year-old recorded 32 appearances and scored twice last season for the Gunners and acquired criticism for a lack of speed and power when dealing with strikers.The France international featured so heavily due to Thomas Vermaelen's long-term Achilles injury and Johan Djourou's rehabilation at the start of the season.
Wenger has already offered Squillaci to La Liga outfit Espanyol, whilst a number of other Spanish and Lique 1 sides are interested with Wenger hoping they grant him a Christmas wish.
6. A Premier League Loan Spell for Emmanuel Frimpong
Should Emmanuel Frimpong not switch his allegiance to Ghana and not depart to the African Nations Cup, the teenager is set to take up a loan spell with a Premier League side in order to enhance his first team opportunities and enrich his experience and development.
The 19-year-old made a successful return following his severe Ankle Cruciate Ligament injury at the start of last season, which came just as the midfielder was set to make his first team Arsenal debut. Frimpong has impressed with 13 appearances and featured consistently at the beginning of the season when injuries and lack of midfield resources were evident. However currently the Englishman has had his opportunities restricted to cup football.
Frimpong has a glistening future and has already exhibited immense maturity and quality with a combination of power and toughness beside elegance and composure. However for now Wenger will be eager for his development to continue and a Premier League club could have a very happy post Christmas should they acquire the teenager.
5. A New Club for Marouane Chamakh
Arsenal fans are still scratching their heads about what has happened to striker Marouane Chamakh. After signing last summer from French giants Girondins de Bordeaux, the Moroccan immediately took to English football, recording 10 goals in the first half of the 2010/2011 season and emerging as one of the Gunners' best.
However, since 2011 Chamakh boasts just two appearances and has shown an alarming lack of confidence and ability. Granted the immense form of captain Robin van Persie, who has 40 goals in 44 appearances in 2011, has restricted the 27-year-old, but his inability to impact games or enforce his physical presence has become evident.
Furthermore, there appears to be no signs of improvement, prompting speculation of a departure. Wenger has grown frustrated with Chamakh and will look hope to find him a new club come January.
4. A Cheap Midfielder
Wenger will be hoping to acquire a cheap yet effective midfielder in January to implement depth, security and potentially leadership and experience. The Frenchman is unlikely to go out of his way or spend a large amount on a quality, world class presence, particularly with Jack Wilshere returning and the development of Francis Coquelin.
However players such as Esteban Granero and Alejandro Faurlin are cheap and effective prospects who would fulfill the requirements at Arsenal. Whether Wenger will try to complete this Christmas list remains to be unseen.
3. A Quality Striker
Arsene Wenger needs and wants a striker for Christmas. The prospect losing energetic Ivorian forward Gervinho to the African Cup of Nations, whilst Marouane Chamakh also departs even if not sold, ensures a large amount of strike power is momentarily absent.
Whilst captain Robin van Persie is in immense form with forty goals in 44 appearances for 2011, it leaves South Korean captain Chu Young-Park as the only recognised back up. Park is still adapting to English Premier League football following his Summer move from Ligue 1 outfit AS Monaco and is yet to feature in the EPL.
Combined with Chamakh's situation, Wenger is needs to secure a striker in January and utilize his £50 million budget. Furthermore, with Robin van Persie's precarious contract situation, the Frenchman will want to enforce quality strike power to complement and appease van Persie, but also to add security.
FC Cologne striker Lukas Podolski is a prominent target with reports that Wenger is wiling to spend £20 million for the German international, but strikers including Vagner Love and Loic Remy have emerged as potential targets also.
2. Robin Van Persie's Maintained Fitness
Robin van Persie is the best striker in World Football. The Dutchman's statstics do not lie, forty goals in 44 appearances for 2011 and almost as many assists. Van Persie is leading Arsenal from the front and is currently the main reason their form is so strong.
If Arsenal are to secure a place in England's top three for 2011/2012 and to maintain their reputation and form, van Persie must be present. The Holland international has had his earlier Arsenal career blighted by injury, which forces one to ponder where the 28-year-old would be at had he not endured such frequent injuries.
A setback to van Persie in 2012 would be devastating and potentially derail the Gunners' campaign. One really does not have to express Wenger's reasons for wanting Robin van Persie to keep fitness as a Christmas presence.
1. A Contract Extension for Robin Van Persie
The most important transfer related issue for Arsene Wenger is easily the contract of captain Robin van Persie.
The Dutchman, who is currently considered one of the best strikers in world football at the moment, enters the final year of his Arsenal contract in the upcoming summer, and Wenger is eager not to endure a repeat of the Samir Nasri saga.
However, unlikely Nasri, van Persie has loyalty to Arsenal and is not solely driven by money, although the 28-year-old does desire silverware and UEFA Champions League football alongside playing beside Europe's best players.
Almost every big-name club in Europe is preparing a bid for van Persie, but Wenger has the funds to appease any lingering wage issues of the Netherlands international and come January, the Frenchman is set to make van Persie's contract his No. 1 transfer target and hopefully grant him the ultimate Christmas present.