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Suarez, Nicolas Pepe and Bailly - What Arsenal need to remain in top-four contention

10:00 GMT 15/01/2019
Denis Suarez Nicolas Pepe
The Gunners sit fifth in the Premier League but are only able to sign players on loan in January, hindering their hopes of a Champions League return

Arsenal are active in the January transfer window even if their lack of funds means they will only be able to sign players on loan this month.

Head coach Unai Emery confirmed the restriction in a recent press conference, while head of football Raul Sanllehi previously hinted that there won't be much business done at the Emirates over the next fortnight.

"Normally I am not a strong fan of the winter window," said Sanllehi. "I think the winter window is for unexpected problems. That's not a rule, it is a principle.

"Unless something special comes up, in principle, the winter window is not one that we are really interested in.

"We have a full team of professionals looking into the market, analysing the possibilities and the players.

"The head coach embraces the philosophy we have and the way we want to play. If we see an opportunity, there is a healthy debate.”

However, Goal understands that Emery is keen on bringing at least one new face in this month and talks with Barcelona over the arrival of Denis Suarez are at an advanced stage.

“We cannot sign permanently,” the Spaniard. “We can only loan players. I know the club is working on possibilities of which players can help us with big performances like we need now. I cannot say more.”

Below, we take a look at the players Arsenal – who sit fifth in the Premier League – could realistically sign on loan, and those that they really should raise funds to buy in order to help boost their hopes of a top-four finish...


Denis Suarez has found his game time limited at Barcelona this season, playing just 17 minutes in La Liga under coach Ernesto Valverde.

"I work to play and I'm not having minutes, so if I don't play... we'll see," Suarez stated after scoring twice in the Copa del Rey win over Cultural Leonesa last month.

"What I want is to play, and against Cultural I was able to do that. I enjoyed it and I felt comfortable, but what I want is to play as much as possible."

He’s eager to link up with Emery, whom he played under at Sevilla, and would come in to compete with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi for a starting spot.

Arsenal's need for another winger has been evident all season, with Iwobi arguably the only natural dribbler in the squad.

There are few players in the Arsenal team who are able to beat players one on one via the flanks, which opens the door for versatile Suarez, who is agile and able to play on either wing, as well as in his preferred role as an attacking midfielder.

With youngster Reiss Nelson impressing on loan at Hoffenheim, there have even been calls for the 19-year-old to be recalled after his six goals in 11 Bundesliga appearances so far this season. Suarez's arrival is far more likely, though.

The only potential stumbling block is Barcelona would prefer to recoup a fee for the player’s services, while Arsenal are only able to offer a loan move with an option to buy at the end of the season.


The 23-year-old Nicolas Pepe has been linked with Arsenal for several months after an impressive 2017-18 campaign for Lille.

However, the Ligue 1 club’s sporting director, Luis Campos, has already said that the right winger won’t be allowed to leave unless his hefty price tag is met.

"It's true. Several big clubs are interested in him," said owner Gerard Lopez is quoted as saying by RMC Sport.

"Some clubs have contacted us directly after the transfer window to know what the state of play is.

"I want him to stay until the end of the season as a minimum."

Pepe would be a direct replacement for the long-term injury absentee Danny Welbeck and would further bolster Arsenal’s lack of depth of the flanks but negotiating a permanent deal at this stage looks difficult.

Consequently, Emery is also reportedly looking at Rennes' 20-year-old Senegalese left winger Ismaila Sarr as a cheaper alternative.


Emery’s side have kept just two clean sheets this season and the need for defensive reinforcement is clear.

With only three fit centre-halves at his disposal, the Spaniard may be forced to give an opportunity to youngster Dinos Mavropanos, who is fit again and highly rated among the coaching staff.

Laurent Koscielny has only just returned from a long-term injury, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are the Gunners’ only other options at the back, as Rob Holding is out for the season.

Similarly, at full-back, Nacho Monreal has struggled with injury and Hector Bellerin also spent time on the sidelines recently.

Chelsea’s Gary Cahill has been linked but Manchester United defender Eric Bailly is also a serious option after falling out of favour at Old Trafford.

Bailly would slot perfectly into the Gunners backline, although it's unlikely that Arsenal would be able to sign him this month unless they stump up significant cash for a player signed from Villarreal in 2016 for approximately £30 million ($38.6m).