Who should be on Arsenal's January shopping list?
Arsenal needs a new spine. The current one is bending, creaking, and ready to break beyond the point of no return. At 35, Petr Cech is not the same stopper he was at Stamford Bridge. Laurent Koscielny needs injections to play without pain. Santi Cazorla has not been on the pitch since October 2016. Jack Wilshere is only now healthy enough to step into the Spaniard's boots. Superstars Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are almost certain to leave in summer. They'll be a great miss, and expenisve to replace.
But what can Arsenal do in the January window?
Petr Cech wears a funny hat. Nonetheless, he is a strong commander in the box, vocal and acrobatic at his very best. Arsenal need a long-term replacement with similar qualities. Although not necessarily the hat.
Domestically, the most viable options are Jack Butland and Asmir Begovic.
Abroad, it gets more interesting. One avenue worth exploring is Alisson Becker. The Brazilian would not be the first female to play in the Premier League. He has flown under the radar backstopping a Roma side with a superb defence. Becker is among just five keepers in Europe’s top five leagues who has kept eight or more clean sheets in a minimum 15 games played. Normally, that would put him in an elite class.
Rated at only £9m on Transfrmarkt, Roma will demand at least three times that for their number one.
Whether Becker arrives, or another option, the new number one will need help in front of him.
It’s sad to say but Laurent Koscielny has past his expiration date. The French international was the glue that held this Arsenal defence together, Consider his performance in Arsenal's abject 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern in the Champions League. In the 102 minutes he was on the pitch, the Gunners scored two while conceding just one. In the 78 minutes he was absent, the Rekordmeister ripped into Arsene Wenger's side for nine goals.
This season, the team has been just as shaky whether Koscielny is playing or not. On creaky knees, he's made errors that have cost games, most notably against United, when he was at fault for two of the Red Devils' three strikes.
Aymeric Laporte has been a coveted player by top clubs for years. Watching him develop at Bilbao, it’s easy to see why. At 23, it’s time he moves to a bigger stage so he can break into Didier Deschamps' supremely talented France side. A great reader of the game and excellent with the ball, Laporte can offset pressure and release counterattacks with his long passing. Arsenal can afford to activate his €65 million release clause.
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez will cost Arsenal much more dearly than they would any other side. No other club would have allowed two players of such calibre run down their contracts and walk away on the free in summer. The risk/reward just doesn't add up. As last season demonstrated, the pair weren't a guarantee for Champions League play, let alone the title, in a deep Premier League field. Where does the return come from in keeping them?
Alexandre Lacazette will soon be the Gunners' lone world-class player. He will need support.
No domestic players appear ready to help Arsenal. Wilfired Zaha can be a game-changer when on song. Too often, though, he's off-key.
First on the Arsenal brain trust's list should be Nabil Fekir. The Lyon star can feature as a number ten or eight, and has a good relationship with Lacazette from their strong Europa League challenge last season. Fekir represents more value at roughly the same price as Zaha.
The Gunners should then focus on Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey. The Jamaican turned heads when he played in Belgium. He hasn't let up in the Bundesliga. Valued at around £30 million, Bailey would be a great purchase.