Five signings Arsenal should look to make in January
Harry Reardon looks at five players that Arsene Wenger could sign for the Gunners in the New Year
Part of the up-and-coming generation of Swiss talent, 22-year-old Fabian Schär is very much a footballing centre-half and would fit well into the Arsenal back line. He has Champions League and Europa League experience with a Basel team that has seen off Chelsea and Tottenham in recent years, and was the star of the show as Liverpool lost at St Jakob-Park last month. While Arsenal’s recent record with Swiss defenders is patchy at best (step haphazardly forward Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos), Schär certainly has the ability to prove the exception. He admitted last week that he was prepared to leave his home country, and with reports suggesting that the Gunners have been watching him for a number of months, a deal may well be imminent.
Swansea’s captain – and if the Arsenal squad is crying out for anything, it is leadership – has enjoyed a fine start to his fourth Premier League season. He is strong in the tackle but equally comfortable stepping out to intercept, and he will put his body on the line where necessary. He is not averse to a lusty clearance or two, as Robin van Persie will testify, but is also happy to keep his team’s game flowing, putting in an average of 58 passes per game at a success rate of over 85 per cent – figures which put Lionel Messi, no less, to shame. The Gunners have already dabbled, with a move to The Emirates appearing a strong possibility last summer before the Welshman signed a new four-year contract at the Liberty Stadium. He has missed just six league matches since Swansea were promoted, and is yet to see a Premier League red card. If Arsene Wenger could prise him away from Wales, he could bring a great deal of calm to the Arsenal defence.
Nigel de Jong
Calm is not, meanwhile, a word readily associated with Nigel de Jong. Neither, however, is passive, and that is a label which sits all too well on Arsenal’s current defensive midfield options. Too often this season, and for too long now, the Gunners find their soft centre exposed, with neither Mathieu Flamini nor Mikel Arteta offering the level of protection their defence requires. The 29-year-old Dutchman has Premier League experience with Manchester City and he has been in good form for AC Milan this season. With five bookings in his last six games – Calum Chambers would certainly sympathise – he has certainly lost none of his bite. His contract is due to expire in the summer, so the Gunners could secure a good deal if they were to act fast.
Another whose contract will be coming to a close next summer, French teenager Adrien Rabiot has already been linked with Arsenal, although Roma are also believed to be keen on a deal. He would be a good fit for the Gunners’ playing style, with a passing success rate touching 90 per cent in two years with Paris Saint-Germain, while he wins the vast majority of his tackles and has shown excellent anticipation with the French champions. There have been suggestions of an inflated ego, but Wenger managed as well as anyone to cope with Nicolas Anelka. Rabiot surely cannot be much more difficult than that.
Something of the forgotten man of Real Madrid’s midfield options, Asier Illarramendi has made just two starts in La Liga and the Champions League so far this season. He has not, though, disgraced himself, with a passing success rate of over 93 per cent from his domestic bits and pieces, and even better numbers in his European flickers. He is solid and has a combative side (to which 11 yellow cards for Real Sociedad in 2012/13, his last full season, will attest), but has been eclipsed in Real manager Carlo Ancelotti’s thinking by the adaptation of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric into a serviceable defensive shield. Arsenal can take advantage of that and make the 24-year-old Spaniard their midfield lynchpin.