The January transfer window closes at 11 pm GMT, January 31st, one week from today. Thus far, Arsenal’s only moves have been loans out — Emile Smith Rowe to Huddersfield Town, Tyrese John-Jules to Lincoln City, and Dinos Mavropanos to FC Nürnberg. As always, there have been plenty of rumors swirling with varying degrees of reliability, however a few names have cropped up consistently enough that the old adage “where there is smoke, there’s fire” may apply.
The name that has come up most frequently this transfer window is 27-year-old PSG left back Layvin Kurzawa, who is out of contract at the end of the season. According to France Football, Arsenal have a five-year-contract with Kurzawa in place for him to join the club on a free this summer. But France Football is the only outlet reporting that the deal is done, so I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Other reports suggest that Arsenal are interested in a move for Kurzawa before the January window closes and that PSG are asking between €5 and €7 million. Kurzawa recently changed his representation to Kia Joorabchian, a “super agent” and lifelong Arsenal fan who has worked closely with Edu Gaspar on transfer deals for years. What that connection means for the accuracy of the rumors and the likelihood of a deal happening is anybody’s guess.
The reports on Kurzawa as a player are mixed. He gets forward well but leaves a bit to be desired defensively. French newspaper L’Equipe gave him a 3/10 rating for a recent performance against Ligue 2 leader FC Lorient, saying “Lorient realized it was best to attack” Kurzawa’s side.
I don’t think a move for Kurzawa, whether it be a paid transfer this week or a free signing in the summer, is what Arsenal need. The Gunners spent £25M on Kieran Tierney in the summer window, have Sead Kolašinac on the roster, and have seen Bukayo Saka deputize admirably at left back. Even with concerns about Tierney and Kolašinac’s ability to stay healthy, the club is set at left back. The funds and wages would be better spent elsewhere.
One place Arsenal do need to spend is at centerback, and the Gunners have been linked with several CBs this window. The least enticing link, at least from where I sit, is to 31-year-old Jerome Boateng. Arsenal are reportedly interested in a loan move for the Bayern Munich man, but our friends over at Bavarian Football Works don’t think Boateng is going anywhere this window because Bayern are thin at the back. And even if Bayern were willing to part with the German international, we’ve seen the over-30 stopgap CB movie at Arsenal already; I’ll pass on David Luiz part deux.
The Gunners have also been linked with RB Leipzig man Dayot Upamecano (and not for the first time). According to German newspaper Sport Bild, the Gunners had at least one offer rebuffed in the summer window, with reports putting the rejected offer at €60M. Unless Arsenal have some hidden funds, there is no chance this deal happens in the January window. Upamecano’s release clause is somewhere north of the bid Arsenal put in over the summer, and it will take at least that amount to pry him away from Leipzig, who reportedly are reluctant to sell at any price. The Gunners don’t have that kind of money to spend in January, full stop.
New this week to the list of Arsenal-linked CBs is 23-year old Ukrainian international Mykola Matviyenko of Shakhtar Donetsk. According to Matviyenko’s agent, Arsenal have been in contact with him and have reached out to Shakhtar. The Ukranian club are asking for at least €36M but are reportedly open to a loan move. The sticking point, if the reports are to believed, is whether that loan would contain an option or an obligation to buy. Matviyenko fits the profile of the type of player Arsenal should be targeting, but to me, this rumor feels more like an agent trying to drum-up interest in his client rather than something with teeth.
And it wouldn’t be a transfer window without Arsenal being linked to Thomas Lemar, who has supplanted William Carvalho as “that guy” perpetually linked to the Gunners. Lemar has struggled since his €60M summer move to Atlético Madrid and “hasn’t lived up to expectations” according to Atleti boss Diego Simeone. With the Spanish giants reportedly in the market for a striker, Lemar could be sold to generate funds for a big move. There have also been reports that a Thomas Lemar for Alexandre Lacazette swap is an option. Again, Arsenal don’t have the funds to buy Lemar straight up, so if the move happens, it would have to be done with a player going back the other way or a separate sale from Arsenal to generate the cash. I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Arsenal generally do not make big moves in the January period. Raul Sanllehi has stated on several occasions that he does not want to be active in the winter window except in an emergency. The Gunners also have limited transfer funds — that is if you believe what everybody from Josh Kroenke on down has said. And after the club broke its transfer record in the summer for Nicolas Pépé, I believe them.
If Arsenal want to make a big splash, they would need to make a similarly sized sale to cover the costs. While that’s not completely out of the realm of possibility with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette winding down their contracts at the end of the 2021 season and reluctant to sign extensions, how much better would a move like that make Arsenal in the short-term? Swapping an older attacking player for a young talent at any position is a good long-term move, but I don’t think Arsenal have thrown in the towel on this season. They’re still alive in the FA Cup, still need to climb the table to make it back into the Europa League, and still could win the EL to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
The reality is that Arsenal are not likely to do anything in the next week before the window closes. I think they’re going to dance with the one that brought them, so to speak.