Reviewing Arsenal's January Transfer Window

Steve Bardens

Reviewing and discussing Arsenal's deals in January.

Well, that's that. In the end, not the splurge of funds that some optimistically predicted, but the signing of one very good left back on the last day of the January transfer window. How typically Arsenal: they entice you with talk of "we'll be busy", look like signing no one and then at the last minute they buy someone we weren't even linked with until about 10 AM this morning. As a reminder, here's the ins and outs of the window:

IN

Nacho Monreal, LB Malaga

OUT

Johan Djourou, CB Hannover (loan)

Marouane Chamakh, ST West Ham (loan)

Emmanuel Frimpong, CM Fulham (loan)

Chuks Aneke, CM Crewe (loan extension)

What makes the window odd is that Arsenal did weaken their squad; Johan Djourou is a fairly competent 4th choice centreback, and makes me feel a lot more at ease with the possibility of two of Arsenal's defenders getting injured than having Sebastien Squillaci or the promising, but still raw, Ignasi Miquel. Admittedly, Marouane Chamakh is effectively useless at this point, but it does leave Olivier Giroud as the only pure striker at the club. Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski are both Arsenal's starting wide players, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a backup for one of those and Gervinho a backup for all three. It does seem a little light, though; Gervinho, aside from a brief period of a month where he had the football equivalent of Omir Santos' May 2009 has been a disappointment for Arsenal, neither showing the quickness in thought or passing ability that is thought to be necessary for Arsenal's attacking players. Furthermore, both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott have a somewhat poor injury record, which makes not signing an attacking player a gamble.

If there are no injuries, though, it should be enough, enough to finish 4th place at least. While it is disappointing that that is Arsenal's top, and seemingly most attainable goal, as Silverace99 pointed out in the live blog comment thread, buying in January is not going to turn a non title contender that is 21 points behind Manchester United into a title contended. Surgery to the squad that would be required to mount a title challenge is always going to happen more realistically in the summer, when a greater number of players are available. Whether the club spends money and improves the side is another story, one that is seemingly dependent on whether this side can get Champions League football again.

That is not guaranteed. Arsenal's squad is thin, and hasn't been decimated much by injuries; unlike last season, where the full backs were returning, this is it. There has been a demand for a more physical defensive midfielder, and one is probably required if Arsenal are going to make a run for the title. However, since coming into a deeper role, Aaron Ramsey has excelled, and a double pivot of himself and Mikel Arteta could give Arsenal the defensive discipline that's needed. A better implemented pressing system would also help matters, and Arsenal are beginning to do such things a bit more, with their pressing much better in recent home matches against Liverpool and West Ham.

And while there is a thin group of attacking players, they are beginning to gel; Arsenal's goal scoring in January has been much less varied than it has been the rest of the season, with 18 goals in 8 games, and 13 in 7 if one excludes the West Ham game. There is, as well, some versatility among the attacking group; Santi Cazorla can always play on the left hand side, as he did so successfully against Swansea in the Cup and less successfully against Chelsea. And, if one is being extremely optimistic, there is always the chance that Thomas Eisfeld, if given a chance, could have a similar influence that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had last season.

At the end of January, Arsenal are only 4 points off of Tottenham, and do have the talent at their disposal to make up those 4 points. Bringing David Villa and a midfielder in would've made the squad a lot better, and could've made the deficit easier to overcome, and that is why there is lots of reasonable frustration towards Arsenal's transfer policy this window. The signing of Nacho Monreal takes away the most worrying prospect, Andre Santos playing left back for an extended time. Champions League qualification is, of course, not guaranteed, and Arsenal could look back at this window as a real opportunity missed. They could also look back at their dealings as doing just enough, which is why this transfer window, while neither a massive success (or even just a success) is also not a catastrophe. The best one-word choice to sum up this window seems to be "passable", and the best is of a similar note: a C.

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