January Transfer window: A fan’s view on Arsenal’s transfer business in the winter
The transfer window is always the most exciting time of the season for football fans. The excitement of potential arrivals often supersedes our ability to function with reason and logic. Suddenly, unattainable names like Kylian Mbappe became feasible in the transfer madness, leaving fans more disappointed when things don't go as expected for their team in the window. Of course, I couldn’t help but getting excited about names like Thomas Lemar and Kalidou Koulibaly, leaving me skeptical of any other targets. However, let me try and look at this objectively in a logical manner.
Going into this window, it was clear to everyone that Arsenal needed defensive reinforcements. The injuries to Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolašinac only accelerated that desire, but the need was evident even before that. The arrival of David Luiz in the summer was meant to be the answer to all of Arsenal’s issues, instead, he has seemingly compounded them leaving Mikel Arteta no choice but to look for other options in winter.
Earlier in January, the rumblings coming out of the club suggested that there wasn’t much money to be spent in this window. Reports suggested that Arsenal would be looking to complete several low-cost deals that wouldn’t impact much of the non-existent transfer budget. In the end, the Gunners secured two loan deals for Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares.
For a team that used to be built off the back of having world-class centre-backs, Arsenal currently doesn’t have one of adequate quality. Many have labelled the current crop at the club as ‘un-coachable’ with them proving themselves time after time to be incompetent. Arsenal has responded to that criticism by bringing in Pablo Mari on a six-month loan deal. Initially reported as a permanent transfer, the Gunners negotiated with Flamengo for this to be a loan with the option of purchase instead.
Although the 26-year-old had a failed stint at Manchester City, Arsenal fans can be optimistic about this signing. As a left-footed and highly combative centre-back, Mari offers the best of both worlds. He’ll significantly aid in playing out from the back, as he’ll be able to create more passing angles favouring his left foot.
Off the ball, he’ll be combative in aerial duels, improving Arsenal’s physicality in defending. Whether the Spaniard will revolutionize the defensive line or not remains to be seen, but what we can expect is a smaller drop off in quality from the first choice o to the backups.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles had been tasked with being Arsenal’s right-back for almost a year, a position he regularly complained about. In interviews, the youngster expressed his dismay at Arsenal fans criticizing his performances when he’s playing out of position. The return of Hector Bellerín has relieved the pressure on the 22-year-old, demoting him to the bench. However, it’s rumoured that the Spaniard is struggling with a recurring hamstring problem, meaning he may not be able to play as many games as first expected.
The signing of Cedric Soares came out of nowhere and was seemingly born out of the need to reduce the workload on Bellerin. The Portuguese international has always been known as a competent and dependable full-back that has Premier League experience. Lest we forget, he is a European Championship winner and has 33 caps to his name. With the 28-year-old set to become a free agent in the summer, Arsenal will be the first choice on whether to sign him beyond this season or not. That’s good business and it gives the Gunners room to breathe without making long-term commitments.
This January window was a fair reflection of Arsenal’s current state of affairs. They’re not oblivious to the glaring deficiencies of the team but sadly aware that the club cannot afford another major injection of funds halfway through the season. Two defensive reinforcements in a time where they have lost three first team defenders is nothing to be sniffed at. Not every team can buy a Bruno Fernandes in January as others must address the basics first. In essence, I’d describe the window as steady, but not spectacular.
Grade: 6/10Published 05 Feb 2020, 07:45 IST