By most people’s standards, it was a decent weekend. Certainly arguments for the fact that it could have been better, but taking a point off Manchester United to make it 4 of 6 on the season, and unbeaten against them is a good season. Not to mention, it’s always a good Sunday when you watch Tottenham lose, right? Spurs lost to Brighton 1-0 and Arsenal find themselves within two points of their fierce rival.
All in all, Tottenham lost, West Ham lost, Everton lost, Leicester lost and Arsenal shared a point with Manchester, which means Arsenal are just on the outside looking in at a packed party of teams vying for fourth and fifth place.
However, as we roll into Monday, attentions shift for 24 hours despite having what could be a crucial matchup in the Premier League with Wolverhampton on Tuesday. It’s Deadline Day for the January window and Arsenal are left with a few choices to make that could have an impact on the rest of this year, even.
Most of Arsenal’s January transfer business was done earlier in the window and looked to address the three key areas that everyone knew needed attention: back up Goalkeeper, a back up left back, and a creative midfielder. However, given Arsenal’s financial situation, the situation with Covid, the uncertainty of what revenue streams will be flowing into the club next season, and the rise of Emile Smith Rowe — Arsenal wisely opted for loans deals.
They brought in Mat Ryan from Brighton as a homegrown goalkeeper to backup Bernd Leno and they won the race for Martin Ødegaard’s signature for a half-season loan to play in rotation with Emile Smith Rowe and create a competitive space for Arsenal’s number ten role. As far as left back, they found an internal solution in Cedric Soares’ capabilities… or so it seemed. Kieran Tierney’s fitness is up in the air and Cedric is asking real questions as he pushes to be the starting right back. With Maitland-Niles potentially making an exit, Arsenal’s outside back situation could be considered thin. What are the options?
Patrick van Aanholt
In the quest for a backup left back, Arsenal are considering Patrick van Aanholt. The 30-year-old Dutch defender currently plays for Crystal Palace but has fallen out of favor and is coming up on the end of his contract. Crystal Palace may be looking for an early out and north London may be the path to take.
Van Aanholt has struggled to get regular minutes making only 12 appearances for Palace and netting just over 1000 minutes in all competitions. Quite the drop off from his 29 appearances last year and near 40 in 2018/19.
The other name on Arsenal’s list is Ryan Bertrand. A little bit older than van Aanholt at 31, Bertrand has played in 18 matches this season and nearly 800 more minutes. What makes this option interesting is that Bertrand is still very much IN favor at Southampton as he has become an integral part of Southampton’s success this year.
The reason that Arsenal would potentially be capable of landing him is because of the fact that his contract ends at the end of this campaign and he is 31 meaning it’s not likely that Southampton re-up his contract. To put a little extra skin in the game, Southampton are reportedly interested in a loan move for Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Arsenal are said to be pushing for both players to be involved in a loan-swap.
If neither left back deals are completed, Arsenal fans will have to hope that it is a sign of Kieran Tierney’s return to health, but as Tierney has shown in his time just at Arsenal alone, his health can change quickly. Soares has proven to be a very capable left back option in a pinch, but everyone would feel a bit more comfortable if there was a natural left back. If many had it choose, Bertrand is clearly the preferred choice.
As has been the case throughout this window, it’s the outgoing players that have made the most waves and drawn most of Edu’s attention. Arsenal have looked at this window and made sure not to waste it. Paying to have Sokratis and Ozil depart, moving Kolasinac early, finding a loan with Nice for Saliba, it certainly has reduced the pure quantity of players loitering around London Colney. But Arsenal are not done yet, and Deadline Day could make significantly more waves. What to keep eyes on:
AMN has been one of the most interesting players to keep tabs on over the last two seasons. He is beloved by most fans as a versatile player and Hale End graduate, but has not seemingly impressed Arteta. Whether this is a product of fans not seeing day-to-day training, not being a part of discussions involving Niles’ low desire to be a defender with his career, or the sometimes biased view fans carry of their favorite players — AMN’s time at Arsenal may be coming to an end.
When it comes to a January move, the only real discussion is a loan, but a loan could just be the first step toward the writing that’s on the wall. Niles has four suitors at the moment, all in the Premier League: West Brom, Southampton, Newcastle, and Leicester. Southampton is reportedly leading the race, but it could be an interesting day to track Ainsley’s news. If he does complete a move away, it raises Arsenal’s need for left back quite significantly.
Last season, Joe Willock make the most appearances of any Arsenal player. He didn’t play the most minutes, but he was one of the first on the team sheet for cup games and first off the bench for league clashes. This year, that role has changed and the minutes have dried up. It’s become clear that if he wants a future at Arsenal, he could benefit from going to a club and playing solid, consistent minutes. Lots of people have been waiting for him to take his chance, but with the amount of chances he has had, he just hasn’t quite made the leap. Newcastle have voiced significant interest with Steve Bruce stating that Willock is his number one target for the window. This move would also be a loan.
Nelson is the third Hale End grad that may find themselves exiting the club in January and spending a little time away on loan. What makes Nelson’s case interesting, and different from Willock, is that Nelson has impressed many during his limited time on the pitch. He was excellent in the Europa League group stages, but that has only translated to two Premier League appearances totaling 69 minutes of play. Additionally, after the Europa League group stage, all hints of Reiss Nelson sniffing minutes or time with the squad completely evaporated. Now, as Deadline Day descends upon us, Nelson may find his way back over to Germany on loan. Two clubs are reportedly interested in him: Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg.
Torreira has had a torrid time at Atletico Madrid with almost no starts for Atletico in a situation he had hoped would jumpstart his career. As of only a few days ago, Arsenal were openly displeased with his time there and looking into options for Lucas with AS Monaco, however, a deal like that would require Madrid be included in the conversation and agree to ending the loan early. Reportedly, this was not something Simeone was keen to do, viewing Torreira as a quality depth option. This weekend, Torreira was given a rare start which probably puts this one to rest as many expect him to complete the season in Madrid.
While Mustafi has had a decent revival under Mikel Arteta, he certainly is out of favor this season, has little future at the club, and many fans have been looking for signs of an early exit. Those signs have come in very odd forms. First, Mustafi was linked with Barcelona, a sale that would have been remarkable. Barcelona turned their attention to Eric Garcia, their debt, and basically anything else other than Mustafi. Makes sense.
Recently, the Mustafi rumors picked back up with Liverpool as the interested party. How is it that Arsenal are done with Mustafi but two of the largest clubs on the world currently are knocking on the door and nosing about? Madness. Unfortunately, Liverpool signed Ben Davies yesterday which probably puts an end to interest in Mustafi. Will be interesting if Arsenal can find a party willing to pull the trigger.
Despite Arsenal having brought Runarsson in during the offseason, it seems they are already looking for ways to move him along. A permanent deal may not be possible in this market — and may not be what they are looking to do given Ryan is only a loan — but the message it pretty clear: Arsenal will need a long term backup this summer. In the meantime, they may try to get Runarsson a few minutes, a little work, and look to keep his value as high as possible.
There is nothing to say that it will be an interesting deadline day for the Gunners — don’t go expecting another crunch time release clause payment — but it will be interesting to see if anything does get done, what it leaves Arsenal with for the rest of the way.
Will they sign a left back? Will they flirt with Lady Luck and ride the season out with Tierney and Soares for left backs? Can they find homes for three of their prized Hale End graduates?
The clock is ticking. Tick tock, tick tock.