What Arsenal’s January could have been

At the end of the transfer window, we asked our master at spying young talent to name three youngsters that could help out our first XI in positions we need.  Not only has Drew picked out three gems, but also we’ve added the relevant Youtube scouting videos so you too can see what all the hype is about – OG.

Ah yes, the transfer market. No other period on the football calendar both excites and frustrates fans the world over. January is even worse. By the midway point of the campaign in Europe, the first month of the year is the perfect time to evaluate your first-team, and potentially invest in reinforcements or replacements.

Over the years, Arsenal have, well, had interesting dealings during the thirty-one-day period. Mohamed Elneny last season, and Nacho Monreal in January 2013 stand as probably the best bit of January business we have done in recent seasons, while moves for Gabriel and Krystian Bielik in January 2015 have been decent. But on the strength of it, Arsenal have never really splashed January cash (insert whatever reason you subscribe to as to why here) to genuinely push the club forward during that current season, or ones to follow. Elneny has been quite good, and Monreal was consistently one of the top left-back’s in the Premier League, but neither have had such an impact on results that have seen us kick on to achieve what we’ve all been dreaming of.

After a disappointing weekend, and two losses on the bounce, we find ourselves in fourth place. Despite the handful of frustrating performances this season, we have had some good spells this campaign.  With the recent shutting of the January transfer window though, I find myself wondering what transfer moves we could have made that could have helped in our challenge both domestically and in Europe. Here are three that I have surmised could have done just that.

Leon Bailey (LW/RW; Bayer Leverkusen – Formerly KRC Genk)

With Alexis Sánchez completing his metamorphosis into an incredibly effective mobile center forward, a debate continues to be had on the way forward for the club in regards to our wide options. It’s likely that we will not splash the cash on a top-quality CF now that Alexis has proven his credentials in the position, but many supporters (myself included) feel that we genuinely could benefit from strengthening our wide options.

Theo Walcott may have improved in regards to his goal tally in comparison to recent seasons, but the once great hope for a player tipped to succeed the king himself can largely be viewed as a relative failure. Arsène Wenger continues to bang the “I see Oxlade-Chamberlain as a central player down the road” drum; Aaron Ramsey never, and I mean never, should be deployed on a flank; Alex Iwobi has progressed in certain areas but who knows where he will end up slotting into the first-team moving forward, or if he can learn consistency; Jeff Reine-Adelaide is seen as one for the future, but how many players have we tipped for big things have fallen well short of the mark.

For me, a top quality wide player would do us some genuine good, and one player I think we missed out on is Jamaican winger Leon Bailey. Bailey recently made a leap in his career path when he swapped Belgian-side KRC Genk for Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen for a reported 12-million Euro; an absolute steal for a player of his currently ability and potential.

Exceptionally quick, technically strong, adept with both feet and able to slot in on either flank equally as effectively, Bailey was high on the scout list of many big European clubs for good reason. His eight goals and ten assists through thirty-give total appearances this season speak not only of his ability chip in with a goal, but even more importantly, his creativity from wider areas; something we have lacked in a winger for quite some time.

The fee paid to Genk was attractive as well, as Arsène prefers to avoid inflated fees. Not only was Bailey affordable, but he could have improved us both currently and moving forward. Still just 19-years-old, and already a highly sought after option, his stock will only rise from here. He’s not the only winger we could/should have chased, but he’s one we could have genuinely built future success around.

Sead Kolašinac (LB/LM; FC Schalke 04)

The position of left-back is a potential problem area in the making; perhaps sooner than we expect. Though he has been arguably the most consistent at the position in the Premier League since his January move in 2013, Nacho Monreal is going to regress. In fact, a case can be made that such an event has already begun.

The Spanish international has garnered a reputation for being effective going forward, excellent in defense, intelligent in his positioning and understanding of space, and adding a little bit of extra experience and leadership. But as he has aged, so have his legs. On quite a handful of occasions this season, Monreal’s decrease in pace has been exposed, while uncharacteristic mistakes in both positioning and judgement when on the ball have reared their ugly head as well. While it is natural for a player to regress, the club may find themselves in a bind if it happens well ahead of schedule.

Further issues are presented by the fact that Kieran Gibbs, another of the English core who largely has failed to build upon the hope that surrounded him, would be the in-house replacement; a fact that I for one do not support in the slightest. Not for a lack of ability, but for a career wrought with inconsistency, as well as injuries; shocker.

With the club having been “linked” with players such as Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez, and Jose Luis Gaya of Valencia, it’s not certain whether Le Prof is genuinely considering a long term replacement for the Spaniard immediately, but many around the club feel it’s necessary; myself included. But players in the ilk of those mentioned above are likely to cost more than what Wenger may want to shell out on the position, a very cheap and very good option that we could have considered this month is Schalke’s Sead Kolašinac.

Standing 6’0 and weighing in at 187 pounds, the robust Bosnian international has carved out a very positive reputation during his time in Gelsenkirchen. While his excellent defensive attributes (which include very good aerial ability) come to the fore, Kolašinac’s proficiency when going forward makes him highly attractive as a very good two-way left-back.

Capable in a left-wing role, or at center back, his versatility as a player adds to the appeal. And if that isn’t enough, his two goals and four assists in fourteen Bundesliga appearances for a struggling Schalke side under first-year manager Markus Weinzierl demonstrates his effectiveness going forward down the left-hand side.

Recent interest and a subsequent approach by Chelsea was blocked by Schalke on deadline day (or so it’s been reported), but with his contract up in the summer and the player showing no signs of wanting to remain at the Veltins Arena, Kolašinac is a very good option for both now and the future that is attainable; potentially on a free. A cut-price deal could have potentially been hashed out this month, even if it was to take him on at the end of the season rather than immediately, but it’s clear that Weinzierl will try to convince him to stay. Should he choose to further his career elsewhere, we would be foolish to not genuinely consider his services.

Davy Klaassen (CM/AM; Ajax Amsterdam)

Our midfield, putting it mildly, has been a conundrum for longer than I care to discuss. How do we use Aaron Ramsey? Does Jack Wilshere have a future? Will Dan Crowley or Gideon Zelalem make the grade in the future? Is Francis Coquelin still worth it? How do we best deploy Granit Xhaka? The questions are endless, but the one constant fact that has never been in dispute is that Santi Cazorla is our midfield talisman; when he’s fit, we’re better, and without him, we’re lacking.

Much like Monreal, Cazorla is on the wrong side of 30; 32 to be exact. With an increasing concern over his recent injury track record, and his contract being up at the end of the season and rumors that he may want to finish his career back in Spain, this is one void we cannot mess around with when it comes to trying to fill it.

Cazorla missed twenty matches last campaign, while to date missing thirty of the current. Without him, we lack real genuine creativity past Mesut Ozil, and our tempo never seems to be as highly orchestrated. Life without Santi is arguably the worst it can be no matter who was on the treatment table, and it’s a reality that we must plan for in short order.

Much like the two players I’ve already discussed, this final player is also on the younger end of the spectrum, and currently one of the most influential Dutch players for both club and country; Davy Klaassen.

The Hilversum native has been at the club since the age of nine, coming through the ranks, captaining the U-19 side in the process, and now being crucial to Peter Bosz. But Klaassen’s ability, much like the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Christian Eriksen, continues the tradition of influential central players to come from arguably the most notable youth system on the continent.

Through twenty-eight appearances in all competitions this season, Klaassen has registered thirteen goals from central midfield, while adding six assists in the process. A strong finisher from both in the area and from range, excellent at picking a pass out, and able to be deployed effectively in both a counter-attacking system as well as a possession-based approach, Klaassen has all the ingredients to be the right man to fill a Santi-sized gap in the first-team.

All told, his forty-eight goals and thirty-two assists in 158-appearances in all competitions for Ajax to date indicate his influence in attack, as well as goals from midfield, something our club are in desperate need of.

With his experience now growing to the tune of being a routine call-up for the Netherlands, as well as wearing the armband at club level, he’s quickly outgrown the Eredivisie. Perhaps it’s time he tests himself at the next level, and I for one would love to see him keep wearing red and white, this time at the Emirates.

Until next time, COYG.

Drew is one of our #ABW Regular Columnists and can be found on Twitter as @AFCBvB1410. When not writing for us, he also writes for Outside of the Boot and FutbollPulse, and he’s a regular hipster on the Football Hipsters Podcast.

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