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Upamecano on hold? Assessing Arsenal's January transfer options

10:00 SAST 2020/01/09
Upamecano Arteta RB Leipzig Arsenal
The Gunners forked out £130 million last summer, more than half of which went on Nicolas Pepe, meaning there is little money to spend this month

As is always the way when the transfer window is open, Arsenal fans are desperate for their club to do some business.

A disastrous first half to the season – which has left the Gunners nine points adrift of the Premier League's top four – combined with a worrying injury list has only strengthened the feeling that additions are a necessity this month.

But while there is an acceptance at executive level that the squad does need improving, the club will not be forced into making any panic buys.

Arsenal committed to over £130 million ($171m) worth of transfers last summer, with a club-record £72m ($94.5m) spent on Nicolas Pepe, who arrived from Lille.

That level of expenditure went well above what was expected of the north London club, given they were heading into a third successive season without Champions League football.

And that is why, as it stands, the focus this month will be on bringing in one or two loan players to help bolster Mikel Arteta’s chances of making a top-four push during the second half of the campaign.

In an ideal world, the Spaniard would be allowed to make at least one permanent signing, especially in defence, where he has just lost Calum Chambers to a season-ending cruciate ligament injury.

“Obviously, we had a bad injury with Calum a few days ago that is going to change our plans at the back,” Arsenal’s new head coach said last week.

“We are going to try to be in the market to see options that can strengthen the team. That’s for sure and that’s our obligation, and we’re going to be working on that.

“My obligation is to give my opinion on the things that we can improve. But the reality at the moment is we are not going to be able to do much.

“I am more concerned to get people back from injures than the signings and to try and improve the players that I have here. If something extra comes up and we think it’s the right opportunity to improve what we have, let’s do it.”

Those final words are key. Despite focusing on the loan market right now, Arsenal will loosen the purse strings this month if the right opportunity presents itself; the kind of chance that is too good to pass up.

Dayot Upamecano is a player the Gunners are particularly keen on and there were discussions with RB Leipzig last summer about bringing the 21-year-old defender to Emirates Stadium.

A move never materialised but the centre-back is still well liked at Arsenal and should Leipzig decide that he can leave this month due to the fact his contract expires in 2021, Arsenal could try to do a deal.

There is money to spend but the preference is to wait until the summer before continuing to reshape the squad.

A lot of planning has already gone into the upcoming summer window. That is where Edu’s focus has been since he was appointed technical director in July.

A large part of his work was done while in conversation with Unai Emery, however, rather than the newly-appointed Arteta.

That is also a reason why Arsenal are wary of delving into the January window as there has been little planning and background checks done surrounding Arteta's preferred targets.

Speaking about the January window last month, head of football Raul Sanllehi said: “The strategic window by definition is the summer window. That’s when you plan the season ahead.

"Last summer we made an incredible effort where we were very grateful to the support we got from our ownership.

“We went really one step further and made a real investment that increased our expectations for the season.

“The winter window is much more for tactical. We are going to have our conversations now between Mikel and Edu to see what things we can do.

“Again, the strategic window and the one Edu and his team are really working on is for the long-term, and that’s the summer window.”

The clear preference at Arsenal is to wait until the summer when they would have had more time to discuss the areas that Arteta feels need improving.

The budget will also be much clearer by then too, given they will know what level of European competition they have to look forward to in 2020-21 – if any.

So, unless an opportunity such as Upamecano – a player the club already knows well – presents itself in the coming weeks, January could be a repeat of last year, when the loan arrival of Denis Suarez from Barcelona was the only significant piece of business done at Emirates.

Those Arsenal fans desperate for major signings should once again be bracing themselves for further disappointment.