Just when Jack Wilshere might have thought his injury problems were behind him, the Arsenal midfielder appears to have now suffered a free setback that could sideline him for three months. Wilshere sustained his latest injury in the second half of the defeat to Manchester United when Paddy McNair caught the England international late in a tackle, leaving Arsenal facing the prospect of losing the midfielder for as long as three months at a crucial time in the season. With the club way behind the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City at the top of the table, Arsenal need all hands on deck in their bid to cut the gap between themselves and the league leaders, not to mention proving a lot of Betfair fans wrong for writing them off.
While the Gunners managed to produce an impressive 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League without Wilshere in the team, Arsene Wenger will know just how big a blow it will be to the rest of his season to lose the 22-year over the festive period. Wilshere could be back sooner than three months if Arsenal feel he can avoid surgery, but the signs aren’t good regarding any hope of the midfielder returning before the end of the year. If an operation is required, the Gunners will be hoping for a similar recovery to the one Olivier Giroud had. The Frenchman made a goal-scoring return in the 2-1 loss to United weeks ahead of schedule after fracturing his tibia in late August.
As far as Wilshere goes, this latest ankle injury will rightfully be giving him a huge amount of cause for concern. The midfielder has been plagued by ankle injuries since his first full season in the senior squad in 2010-11. While it believed it is his right ankle that is the problematic one after keeping him out of action for as long as 17 months, but the left ankle has also given Wilshere a number of issues. Despite being in obvious discomfort, Wilshere attempted to play on for a few minutes before coming off the field, and that determination to play through the pain barrier has often been a reason behind the youngster’s extended spells in the treatment room.
With just 95 Premier League appearances to his name in five years, the stats show just how much football Wilshere has missed during his career. It hasn’t just been Arsenal who have missed having the midfielder playing, and England have been robbed of one of their most talented youngsters for much of the past couple of years. While Wilshere has made 26 appearances for England since making his debut in 2010, the midfielder will know that he could have won at least double the amount of international caps had it not been for his injury problems. Since the start of this season Wilshere has looked back to his best, producing a number of eye-catching performances for both the Gunners and England over the past few months.
The injury might have come at a good time for England considering they aren’t in action again until March, but Arsenal are at a point in the season when they are in real danger of being cut adrift by the leading pack. Even without the tough run of games ahead of the Gunners over the next couple of months, Arsenal fans know just how important Wilshere has been in a midfield that is already lacking in quality. If Wenger needed to bolster his midfield options in January before Wilshere’s injury, the Frenchman will know strengthening in the centre of the park is now as important as signing a new centre-back.
A defensive midfielder had been near the top of Wenger’s shopping list in January alongside a defender or two. We can now add another central midfielder to that list. This season has shown that the likes of Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini – and arguably Mesut Ozil – are simply not up to the job. With Wenger keen on playing three centre midfielders, Wenger needs to sign some reinforcements for Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey if we are going to see Arsenal achieve anything this season. While some Gooners might feel strengthening the defence is more important than addressing the midfield, the reality is that both areas need bolstering if this season is going to end with the Arsenal in the top four, possibly even with a trophy under their arm.
So if we take it as certain that Wenger is looking at defenders and midfielders in Janaury, who can we expect to be on their way to the Emirates in the New Year.
One player who has been heavily linked with a January move to North London has been Basel centre back Fabian Schar. The 22-year old has made it clear he is looking to leave the Swiss club in order to step up to one of European football’s bigger clubs, and Wenger has reportedly made it known he wants to sign Schar. The youngster has been chased by a number of Italian sides since the summer, but Arsenal are believed to have stolen a march on their rivals and could be close to agreeing a deal to bring Schar to the Emirates.
With his contract in Switzerland expiring in the summer, Basel could be tempted to accept an offer of around £10 million rather than risk losing him for nothing six months later. The youngster has amassed an impressive level of experience for a player still yet to pass the age of 23, appearing for Switzerland in the 2014 World Cup on the back of a sensational season in which he played a key role in Basel winning the Swiss Super League title. While Schar might not be an immediate solution to the club’s defensive problems, playing and training alongside the likes of Per Mertesaker and Laurent Koscielny would only improve the Swiss youngster.
The Aston Villa defender has emerged as a serious target for Arsenal after talks over a new deal at Villa Park stalled. Vlaar was one of the stars of the show for Holland in the summer’s World Cup, and the 29-year old has been monitored by a number of big clubs throughout the season. With talk linking the Dutchman with Manchester United as well as the Gunners, Vlaar’s decision to put off his contract talks with Villa could be the sign clubs need to make a move for the defender in January.
The former Feyenoord star has been one of the Premier League’s most consistent defenders since his arrival from Holland in 2012. But while Vlaar’s performances for Villa hadn’t exactly gone unnoticed during his time in England, it wasn’t until the World Cup before the big clubs really sat up and took notice. In Vlaar, Arsenal would be signing a player who knows what it takes to defend in this league and a defender who is in the peak of his career.
A surprising name that keeps being mentioned when it comes to defensive targets is Manchester United’s Chris Smalling. The England international reportedly came close to joining Danny Welbeck in making the move from Old Trafford to the Emirates in the summer and Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in returning to the potential deal in January. Louis van Gaal is himself looking at strengthening his defence in the new year and the Dutchman is believed to be willing to let Smalling leave Old Trafford as he continues to try and stamp his own mark on this United squad.
While Gooners could be forgiven for feeling underwhelmed by the prospect of signing Smalling, it’s a fair guess that a lot of those same fans were apprehensive about the arrival of Welbeck. Like Welbeck, moving away from United might be just what the defender needs to get his career back on track, and Arsenal could certainly do with players of the calibre of Smalling providing back-up to the likes of Mertesaker and Koscielny.
At the top of most Arsenal fans’ wish lists this January will be Julian Draxler. The Schalke midfielder has been a long-time target for Arsenal in recent years and Wenger has been making noises suggesting he could finally be tempted to break the bank in order to sign the Germany international. A hamstring injury is likely to keep Draxler out of action until after Christmas, but that won’t stop those clubs interested in the 21-year old from trying to sign him in January.
Schalke have slapped a £35 million price tag on their prized asset and aren’t keen about the prospect of losing the Germany international halfway through the season. Arsenal wouldn’t meet the Bundesliga club’s asking price in the summer but Wenger might now be ready to bite the bullet and pay what he has to in order to sign a player that is also being courted by Manchester United. Draxler’s arrival could depend on some players leaving the Emirates, most notably Mesut Ozil, who has been linked with a move away from North London when he returns from his injury.
Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira had seemed like the most likely arrival in Janaury. Nearing the end of his contract in Spain and out of favour under Carlo Ancelotti, Khedira had been expected to be on his way out of Real in January. That might have all changed now, though. The injury to Luka Modric saw Khedira called back into the first team fold, and the Germany international has been tipped to be the man to replace his injured team-mate between now and the end of the season.
While there are some who feel the only option available to Arsenal would be to try and agree a pre-contract with Khedira that would see him arrive on a free transfer at the end of the season, Wenger is still rumoured to be confident of tempting Real to sell the 27-year old now rather than lose him for free in the summer. The situation has been made more difficult with the presence of Chelsea on the scene, with Jose Mourinho believed to be desperate to strengthen his squad further with the signing of Khedira.
With the Sami Khedira deal now a bit cloudy, Wenger could be tempted to move for another Germany international in the shape of Christoph Kramer. The defensive midfielder has failed to cement himself at Bayern Leverkusen despite being a regular in Joachim Low’s recent Germany squads. After three seasons on loan at Vfl Bochum, Kramer was loaned out to Borussia Monchengladbach at the start of this season but could be set to leave Leverkusen on a permanent deal in January.
Available for around £12 million, the World Cup winner might be an underwhelming signing when compared to Draxler and Khedira but the 23-year old could well be an inspired choice by the Frenchman. Capable of playing as a traditional central midfielder or in a deeper more defensive role, Kramer was one of the most consistent performers in the Bundesliga last season and Arsenal could pick up a real steal securing Kramer’s services so cheap.
Despite only arriving at Sevilla in the summer, Grzegorz Krychowiak could already be on his way out of the Spanish club for around five times the price the La Liga side paid for him. The Polish midfielder arrived in southern Spain from Reims in the summer for a mere £3.1 million, and an impressive start to the season has been enough to apparently convince Wenger to pay around £18 million in order to sign the 24-year old.
The tough tackling midfielder has been a revelation during his short time at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, and Sevilla would be keen to squeeze as much out of Arsenal as possible if they were to part with the Poland international. While Krychowiak not be well known in England to those not keeping a close eye on La Liga, there is enough evidence out there that suggests the Sevilla man could add a bit of bite and toughness to a midfield that drastically needs both qualities.