How should Mikel Arteta look to strengthen Arsenal?

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

There is a lot for Premier League managers to be relieved about this week; not only have they seen the back of a chaotic spell of fixtures but the opening of January's transfer market sends opportunity for squads to be invigorated with fresh talent. No doubt that Arsenal's new Head Coach, Mikel Arteta, who made 150 appearances for the Gunners between 2011 and 2016, is speculated to be one of the most active managers during this window.

January has also come at an interesting time this year, with an exodus of managers throughout the last month suggesting that many other Premier League clubs, such as Everton and West Ham, will be looking to reinforce, regroup and change the fortunes of their season. Therefore, in what is likely to be a saturated and overpriced market, the Spaniard may wish to see out the season, work out his preferred players and look to recruit in the summer. However, Arteta has been thrown into a job where he must deal with understandably frustrated fans who expect improvements imminently; if the board allows him to rummage through their wallets, it is almost certain they will strengthen during this window.

Which areas will Arteta predominantly focus on?

Arsenal's fervent win over Manchester United will give Arteta and fans a surge in confidence, but both would agree that reinforcements are still desperately needed.

With strikers Aubameyang and Lacazette providing a reliable source of goals, and the improved form of Ozil and Pepe in attacking midfield, the Spaniard will surely look to ameliorate a defence that has looked shaky, lethargic and disorganised in recent years.

Option 1: Buy a central defender. David Luiz and Sokratis offer experience but they have not yet built a solid or convincing partnership. Although Arteta could allow them to bond more fruitfully until the end of the season, there is a strong likelihood that he takes a more immediate approach. If the club are prepared to dig deep into their pockets, Back Four suggests they should look to bring in 22-year old Rúben Dias, who has helped Benfica keep 10 clean sheets in 14 games played in the Premeira Liga. With his strong frame, defensive mentality and ability to pass out from the back, he would compliment David Luiz or Calum Chambers when he comes back from injury.

Option 2: Buy a strong defensive midfielder to act as an anchor. Although Xhaka spent some games at centre-back under Unai Emery, he has struggled at times to perform well as a defensive player and needs somebody strong, composed and menacing alongside him. Arguably the strongest teams in recent years have had this anchor of a play at the heart of their midfield; Fernandinho and Sergio Busquets mastered this role for Pep Guardiola for Manchester City and Barcelona respectively and even Liverpool looked to push Jordan Henderson higher up this year and support him with Fabinho, who has been outstanding. Back Four believe that Arsenal could pick up Emre Can on a relatively cheap deal, as the German has been warming the bench in Juventus' dugout for most of the season so far.

By acquiring Can, Arteta would have lots of freedom; he could play Xhaka alongside him as a deep-lying playmaker when looking to open up the opposition, or partner him with the mobile and tenacious Torreira if the defence need more support. The latter may work particularly well if Arteta continues to play Mesut Ozil, as Can and Torreira would offer the German the defensive solidity he needs to play the No.10 role.

Finally, many aficionados will be urging Arsenal to sign one or two fullbacks this transfer window, as injuries have forced them to play the inexperienced pair of Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in recent games. Back Four cautiously suggest that Arteta should hold off in this department and look to be patient with these young prospects, Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin. With pacey, dynamic fullbacks becoming a rich commodity in modern football, Arteta could look to utilise these players in more advanced areas and instruct his defensive midfield pair to cover the positions they leave vacant on attack. Arguably, the main concern with Arsenal's defence is with the stem of their team rather than the wide areas; Arteta will surely work to iron out this issue first and foremost, before hemorrhaging more money on youthful and expensive fullbacks.

Regardless of transfer activity this month, Arsenal fans will be encouraged by the new energy and identity the change in manager has brought. They will be conscious to maintain the high levels of performance they showed against Manchester United when they host Leeds United in the FA Cup's 3rd Round this weekend.

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