Oh Gooners, what have you done? It seems that Arsenal’s new resident gem hunter has taken no time at all to realise the monumental (read: nearly impossible) task he has before him. This week, in an interview with a publication in his native Germany, new head of recruitment Sven Mislintat expressed his wonder at the level of expectations surrounding the club and himself as the man who has seemingly unearthed players like Ousmane Dembele for fun. That he is feeling perhaps a bit overwhelmed was not even hidden by the interview’s translation into English.
However, the signings of Mislintat and new Head Of Football Operations Raul Sanllehi, poached from Barcelona just a week after the German was brought in, were both made for a reason. Ivan Gazidis was not joking this summer when he promised fans change, even though the general derision with which his statement was met displayed a clear reluctance on the part of the fans to believe him. With the contract situations of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still up in the air (because humans breathe air and water is wet), the question must now be who can the Gunners possibly sign in January to help this team? If one or both leave, does such a player (or players) exist that could allow the team to remain at the same level, or perhaps even improve? Should Arsenal even target similar players to their current stars, or look to redistribute their investment in top end talent elsewhere in the squad?
In short, yes. Perhaps it won’t look the same, and the roles could be slightly different, but Arsenal have the resources to fix the massive hole that could be blown into the squad a month from now. In fact, Arsene Wenger and his new team could look at this as an opportunity to get younger at those key positions, finding slightly raw or incomplete but talented players to mould into perfect Gunners. While the fans’ relationship with Mesut Ozil is currently in a good place (thanks in no small part to his team that handles his social media), they have soured on his Chilean counterpart. Last season, Alexis was the only player fit to wear the shirt according to some, and most would have been happy for the club the get rid of Ozil just to insure they had the resources to keep Sanchez. However, his very public flirting with Manchester City this summer has led many to see him in a less flattering, more truthful light.
Whether the duo star or go, the club still must improve in January if they want to aid their bid to secure a Champions League place. Here are two transfer scenarios that the Gunners should consider if they want to improve long term:
The first, and most obvious to those paying attention to the rumours mill, is Schalke midfielder Leon Goretzka. In just about every metric, Goretzka is the perfect young, all-around player that could help almost any club in the world. At over six feet tall, he has the size to compete in the Premier League to go along with his top notch passing ability and tackling nous. He is positively lethal arriving from deep, and has everything in his bag of tricks that a central midfielder needs, and even possesses enough technique to start as part of the pairing behind the striker in Arsenal’s 3-4-2-1.
Given that Goretzka is out of contract at the end of the season. There will be a queue of clubs lined up out the door for his services. So how does Arsenal have a chance to land the star man amid all the interest from top clubs? Well to start, the squad already contains a few connections to the young German, with his former Schalke teammate Sead Kolasinac now in North London and enjoying his football at the moment, and Mesut Ozil, who aside from being his German national teammate is the midfielder that a whole generation of Germans idolise for his incredible vision and passing ability. Additionally, Sven Mislintat, who had spent the last decade at Borussia Dortmund, is likely very acquainted with the player, both from their league rivalry with Schalke, and in his previous capacity as head scout of a club that has turned poaching Schalke stars into an art form.
While all of those connections alone might not be enough, his injury history could, strangely, be the Gunners’ saving grace. He is currently still working his way back from a broken leg, and has a history of muscle injuries, which could be enough to prevent other clubs from offering the maximum. He may play the same position as Aaron Ramsey, who has been in good form this season, but with his youth, ability and lack of a transfer fee, he could be the perfect signing for Arsene Wenger in January. At the very least, it shouldn’t be hard to convince him London is a better place to live than Gelsenkirchen…
Method: Pre-contract agreement or small fee to buy six months early
Dependent on either Ozil or Sanchez leaving: No
Another name to make the wishlists of many fans is PSG winter/midfielder Julian Draxler. Well known as a long term target for the Gunners, Draxler is a special talent, who has been hurt by his club’s determination to build a “Parisian Galacticos” this season, often losing his place on the wing to Edinson Cavani or Kylian Mbappe. The two footed German is still just 24 years old, and has the potential to be one of the most dynamic attackers in the world. He has a laser of a shot, and has the creativity to be a true pass or shoot dual threat. Also over six feet tall, there are few concerns about his ability to adapt to the physical rigours of the Premier League.
As a player, Draxler is something of a combination of Alexis and Ozil with his abilities, as he is a more aggressive and capable shooter than Ozil, but not nearly as selfish as Alexis Sanchez, despite showing signs of it earlier in his career at Wolfsburg. As a salve for the potential loss of both talismans to rivals or major teams abroad, few in the world are as capable. Signing Draxler would allow the Gunners even more flexibility on the opposite flank, and his all-around ability in the attacking third means that he will not necessitate combination with either a pure playmaker or a pure goal scorer. He would easily fill whatever role he could be asked to play in under Arsene Wenger, and do it well enough to earn the adoration of the stubborn Emirates faithful.
When it comes to his acquisition, it may appear to be deceptively easy, but there are underlying complications. While it seems like it would be simple, prying a talented player away from a club who have minimised his role in favour of others since he arrived, with Cavani getting on in years a bit, perhaps PSG’s long term plan still includes the German. There is also the fact that the player has declined the opportunity to play in North London in the past, and his move to PSG a year ago suggests he might see himself as too good for Arsenal. Still, with playing time in Paris hard to come by, perhaps a long term loan with an option to buy to the Gunners would work for all parties. Players generally love their time with the club, only disappointed perhaps by the recent lack of trophies, so if this is a move that is available to Arsene Wenger, he would be foolish not to take it. With any luck. Draxler might enjoy time in a building where his talents are appreciated, nourished and developed further in a respectful manner. A true no-brainer here.