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Why Arsenal have got this Transfer Window spot on.


The January transfer window is a terrible time to do business. Players often do not want to switch sides mid-season, especially if there is a chance of silverware at their current club. Even if they do, there is no guarantee that they will seamlessly transition to the Premier League- for every Luis Suarez there are several Andy Carroll’s, for each Nemanja Vidic, many Chris Samba‘s. In this article, I will outline why Arsenal’s January business, whilst underwhelming to some, is actually exactly what was needed, and the right move.

What did the club need?

Going into the winter window, Arsenal clearly needed to bolster their defence. This was made even more obvious on the brink of the window when Calum Chambers ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament against Chelsea. In the summer, Arsenal had been linked with RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano, and they continued to be linked with him throughout the winter window as well. Upamecano, however, was not going to move from a side leading the Bundesliga and faced with a winnable tie in the Champions League knockout stages. Least of all to join Arsenal at their current stage.

Add to this Arsenal’s expenditure in the summer, as well as the likelihood of another season without the cash-boost of Champions League football, and it becomes even clearer that this deal was a non-starter. Finding a centre-back on a budget, as David Luiz proved last summer, is no easy prospect. Equally, Arsenal have a poor record of signing centre-halves full-stop in recent seasons, splashing over £50 million on Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis. With William Saliba already incoming in the summer for a hefty fee, it is easy to see why Arsenal chose not to try and break the bank again for transfers in January.

Enter Pablo Mari– a 6’4″ left-footed centre back. In many ways, this loan with an option to buy makes perfect sense. Mari’s domestic season with former club Flamengo was over, which meant that fees for the defender would not have the mid-season inflation that European clubs would surely demand. This means that for a very low risk, Arsenal have got a player who can cover defensively for the interim period whilst they can save their money to spend more prudently in the summer.

Stylistically, he is used to playing in a defence with a high-line, something which Flamengo used to great effect in Brazil, and therefore will hopefully acclimatise well to Arteta’s new system. He is comfortable on the ball, and rarely makes mistakes. Most importantly, however, he is a left-footed, left-sided centre half, something which the club has been missing since Thomas Vermaelen left in 2014. This should theoretically give Arsenal’s side greater balance defensively, and the assumption is that he will partner David Luiz, giving Arsenal great passers out from defence.

A loan transfer for Mari, with an option to buy in the summer if he is successful, suits all parties well and helps Arsenal cover shortcomings for the next few months at the very least with what seems to be a competent player. More importantly, it does not significantly detract from any summer signings that could be made.

Right-back for Arsenal has been another problem for some time. Hector Bellerin, the only natural right-back, has been injured for over a year, and although now fit again, cannot immediately be asked to complete 90 minutes twice a week. The other option for this position is Ainsley Maitland-Niles, a self-proclaimed central midfielder by trade. He has performed competently, but it is no surprise to see the club wanting to bring in a more natural understudy to Bellerin, which would in-turn allow Maitland-Niles to challenge for a spot further up the pitch.

In these circumstances, Cedric Soares appears a reasonable option. Once again, the initial deal would see the Portuguese international join on a six-month loan, with the option for a free transfer in the summer. And once again, the fees would be minimal.

It is easy to see why Cedric has been identified. Whilst perhaps he falls into the category of “competent” rather than “good”, he is out of favour at Southampton, a cheap transfer, and offers experienced cover. At 28 years old, he is also perhaps less likely to suddenly drop off in the same way that Stephan Lichtsteiner did. Whilst the deal is not yet over the line, it seems likely, and that will allow Maitland-Niles to perhaps offer the box-to-box midfield presence Arsenal have also identified as a gap, at least in the short term.

For the first time in a long time, Arsenal’s transfer business is beginning to show signs of long-term, joined-up thinking. These loans do not have the same tinges of desperation and panic that saw Denis Suarez join to bolster a position which Aaron Ramsey already occupied last January. Instead, they are low-cost signings for competent players that fill gaps in the squad and have the potential to work out well going forward. If they don’t, there is no obligation for Arsenal to make the transfers permanent. Low risk, with the potential for high reward. All whilst keeping money aside for the summer window, where much better value becomes available.



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