Arsenal have had a terrific season so far as they currently sit top of the Premier League having only dropped points on two occasions this season. Following a turbulent few years, Mikel Arteta has completely changed the football club going from being an inconsistent team to potential Premier League champions.
A first Premier League title since the 2003/04 season is not out of the question, but to do that, the Gunners will need to add to their squad to ensure they remain in the title race. But how could Arsenal strengthen this January?
There are two positions, in particular, that Arsenal need to strengthen in – central midfield and attack. With the latter position, it seems like the Gunners are pushing to sign Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhailo Mudryk who has caught the eye following a host of impressive performances in the Ukrainian top flight. Arsenal have reportedly made a bid of £35 million plus £17.5m in add-ons but Shakhtar have rejected the bid and want an improved amount. It is a position that will need to strengthened due to Gabriel Jesus’ injury at the FIFA World Cup which could rule him out for up to three months.
Mudryk has seven goals and six assists to his name in 12 Ukrainian Premier League games as well as five goal contributions in six Champions League outings. According to FBref, the 21-year-old has scored 0.52 non-penalty goals this season, amongst some of the best stats in the division, and he completes 1.74 dribbles per game. Mudryk, on average, gets 0.35 assists per 90 which is 0.2 more than Arsenal’s creative mastermind Martin Ødegaard. He is not the most defensive of players but he is certainly a threat going forward with 3.84 progressive passes received per 90.
Mudryk will not come cheap with Shakhtar Donetsk holding firm with their £85 million valuation of their star asset, according to The Guardian. Arsenal have also been offered the chance to sign Atlético Madrid forward João Félix but it appears the Gunners preferred option is Mudryk. Cody Gakpo looks set to join Liverpool from PSV Eindhoven – another attacking player that Arteta was interested in. But do you think Mudryk will fit in at the Emirates Stadium?
Now into the midfield and there is one player that all of the top European clubs have on their wish list – Enzo Fernández. The Benfica midfielder was one of the best performers at the World Cup, earning himself the best young player of the tournament as Argentina lifted their third World Cup. He only joined Benfica in the summer from River Plate but his stay in Portugal could be short-lived. It would cost an astronomical fee for Benfica to let the Argentine depart in January but a move in the summer could be a possibility.
Fernández has been Benfica’s midfield linchpin this season and his ability to thread a ball through the eye of a needle is one of his most impressive attributes. According to FBref, Fernández completes 96.83 passes per game with a pass completion rate of 87.1% while Granit Xhaka only completes 57.73 passes. Additionally, Fernández, despite playing in midfield, has 2.3 shots and 0.21 assists per 90 which has resulted in him getting five goal contributions in all competitions this season. He is part of a very successful Benfica side who sit top of the Primeira Liga by eight points and they have a very winnable upcoming Champions League round of 16 tie against Club Brugge.
Another reason to sign the midfield maestro is due to Thomas Partey’s injury problems. The Ghanaian regularly spends time on the sidelines and in Arsenal’s only Premier League defeat this season, Partey did not feature. This shows how crucial he is to Arsenal’s style of play and without him, the Gunners can struggle, making the potential addition of Fernández even more important.
A position that is not a necessity, but could be improved, is the striker position. As I alluded to earlier, Jesus will be on the sidelines for some time meaning Eddie Nketiah is the only out-and-out forward at Arteta’s disposal. They may want another, more experienced striker who can give them a different outlet in the final third. Despite this, as shown by Arteta’s signings in recent years, he has added players to his squad who are young so a move for an experienced striker is unlikely. However, with the additions of Mudryk and Fernández, could the Gunners lift the Premier League title?