Arsenal may only have signed one player this January window, and on loan at that, but the club will be happy with their business on transfer deadline day.
Unai Emery has repeatedly mentioned in his press conferences how he wanted the club to sign “a wide midfielder, who can play on the left and right” and Arsenal went out and signed him one.
Under Emery, Arsenal have frequently dominated possession but struggled to create in the final third. Denis Suárez, signed on loan from Barcelona, will help to rectify that. It helps that Suárez has also worked with Emery before, during a successful loan stint at Sevilla during the 2014/15 season.
However, the club’s financial constraints meant that they were unable to get a second deal over the line – despite the availability of all three of those players. Both Perisic and Carrasco were incredibly keen on a move to London, but given the former’s age and the latter’s wages, it would be a surprise to see Arsenal rekindle their interest in either player in the summer.
Of the three, it would make the most sense for Arsenal to return for Nkunku when the transfer window reopens in July. The 21-year-old, a first-team regular under Emery at Paris Saint-Germain last season, is out of contract in the summer of 2020 and is unlikely to find opportunities under Thomas Tuchel any easier to come by now that the club have signed Leandro Paredes from Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Yet of more pressing concern to Emery in the summer will undoubtedly be strengthening Arsenal’s defence, which has actually conceded two more goals than at the corresponding stage of last season under Arsène Wenger.
Laurent Koscielny will have turned 34 at the start of next season. Sokratis Papastathopoulos will be 31. Shkodran Mustafi continues to struggle. Rob Holding will still be recovering from rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament. And Emery seems reluctant to bed in 21-year-old Konstantinos Mavropanos.
There is money to spend. “The club say to me in the summer that it is going to be different,” Emery said at London Colney earlier this week. “And we are going to have chances to take and spend money to buy players.”
There have been reports in Spain that Emery is keen on a move for Algeria international Aissa Mandi, who has impressed in La Liga for Real Betis this season. The 27-year-old has a £26m release clause in his contract and has previously been courted by West Ham.
Real Valladolid defender Fernando Calero is another option, with an enticingly low release clause of just £10m. Meanwhile, Olympiacos defender Björn Engels has made his thoughts on a move to London clear. “Arsenal? It would be a dream,” he said earlier this month. “But playing in England, it would be already top.”
Arsenal were also linked with French right-back Kévin Malcuit, who plays for Napoli. The 27-year-old could provide cover for the injured Héctor Bellerín, as well as replacing Stephan Lichtsteiner, who has just turned 35 and has struggled in his first season at the club since his move from Juventus.
This month has also seen Arsenal linked with Eric Bailly of Manchester United and Gary Cahill of Chelsea. However Cahill is not a long-term solution while it is unlikely United will wish to strengthen one of their direct rivals. The appointment of a new manager and director of football could also see Bailly’s situation at Old Trafford change.
There will also be substantial change at the Emirates, too, as the club press ahead with their plans to appoint a new technical director and continue to adjust to the impending departure of Sven Mislintat.
It will be interesting to see how the club’s transfer policy changes in the light of Mislintat’s departure. The German decided to quit Arsenal after being overlooked for the technical director vacancy, while also harbouring suspicions that Emery and Head of Football Raul Sanllehi were too involved in identifying new transfer targets.
Whoever is left calling the shots in Mislintat’s absence has big shoes to fill. The likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lucas Torreira and Mattéo Guendouzi have been huge successes, especially considering the club’s well-documented financial constraints.
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