Arsenal have been active in the transfer market this month, but the club appear to be predominantly focussing on getting players out before they explore incomings. But the Gunners need to ensure they strengthen this month and in this article I’ll explain why.
At the time of writing Arsenal have scored just 23 league goals from 19 games. Mikel Arteta once said that he knows Arsenal need to be scoring closer to 100 a season to win the league – the club are currently light years away from that. Whilst some of this comes down to conservative tactics, it’s clear that the Gunners lack the adequate depth of quality of creative midfield players. The emergence of young Emile Smith Rowe has helped fill a hole and fire the club to two high scoring games against Chelsea and West Brom. But a more recent stalemate against Crystal Palace at home was a stark reminder of where Arsenal are at and how they must improve to get back to those top four places.
There is a lot of quality in the Premier League now and teams have figured out that Arsenal lack that guile in midfield to break down low blocks. That means almost every opponent Arsenal face, apart from the top teams, seem to sit extremely deep, leaving Arsenal often with no answer.
That is why Arsenal need creative players not just to play in attacking midfield, but also in wide areas and in deeper central roles. Much of Arsenal’s ability to break down teams of late has come in wide areas and through left back Kieran Tierney. His enthusiasm and attacking intent kicked off what turned into a convincing 4-0 away win vs. West Brom with the Scottish defender earning both a goal and assist.
Whilst the emergence of young Smith Rowe has been encouraging, Arsenal must remember that the English midfielder has a past littered with injury problems and recent showings have highlighted that he will struggle to wear the creative burden himself for the duration of the season. Smith Rowe is also capable of playing from wide areas, so any new signing does not necessarily stop Smith Rowe from starting games. This season is being played at a high pace with two games a week nearly every week. Arsenal are still competing in the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League and there no way that the club currently have the creative diversity in the squad to compete on all fronts. If Arsenal lose Smith Rowe to injury with their current squad, they are back to square one.
The other area Arsenal must improve in is between the sticks. Whilst Bernd Leno has performed very well this season, helping the team to one of the best defensive records in the league, the back up options are not convincing. With so many games left to play, the club cannot really afford to take the risk. The Gunners signed Alex Runarsson for just £1million in the summer, but the Icelandic stopper has been far from convincing when given opportunities in the Europa League and League Cup. This will have concerned Mikel who has vocalised the fact that he wants to sort the goalkeeping situation this month. Runarsson looks likely now to leave on loan with the Gunners to search for a more reliable back up option.
The is no shortage of better goalkeeping options available. Mat Ryan from Brighton is currently third choice at the club and has been told he can leave. Tom Heaton is now playing second fiddle to former Gunners Emiliano Martinez. Elsewhere the club have been linked with Brazilian keeper Neto. For me, that move is less realistic. The Brazilian wants to move as he isn’t getting first team football and he is unlikely to displace Leno. He’s also likely to cost in the region of £20million, as Barcelona paid £23million for him back in 2019. Arsenal may look for a short term option to get them to the summer, when they may be able to sign who appears to be a long term target in David Raya from Brentford.
So for me, Arsenal must sign a new creative midfielder and goalkeeper this month. Without a new midfielder the club will continue to struggle to score the goals required to move up the table and without a reliable back up to Leno, the club could be in serious trouble if the German were to pick up any injury.