Assessing the January transfer window: Should Arsenal have done more?

By on February 2, 2024

Mikel Arteta Arsenal

The January transfer window is now closed so it’s time to look back and assess how things went for Arsenal and their main Premier League rivals.

It’s an open secret that Mikel Arteta wanted to strengthen his squad in January. The Gunners boss made it clear on several occasions that he felt his squad is too thin and he needed reinforcements if the club were to compete for the Premier League and Champions League during the second half of the season. Fans who buy Arsenal tickets every week were also unanimous in their feeling that Arsenal needed to bring in one or two new faces to give us the required strength in depth to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool.

What did Arsenal need?

Undoubtedly, the one thing most felt Arsenal needed was a top class striker. Gabriel Jesus is a terrific player but by his own admission, he isn’t an out-and-out goal-scorer. Eddie Nketiah is a decent finisher but he’s not at the required level to make Arsenal champions. Jesus and Nketiah have scored just nine league goals between them this season, so it’s clear we needed a prolific striker to take us to the next level.

Ivan Toney was the name strongly linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium and he made it clear he would be open to a big-money move this winter after recently returning from his 9-month suspension. However, Brentford wanted at least £80m and with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham also sniffing around, they knew they could demand top dollar. Arsenal weren’t prepared to spend that kind of money in January, so a move failed to materialise.

Arteta could also have done with another versatile defender. We lost Jurrien Timber to an ACL injury on the opening weekend of the season and it left us short of options in defence. Takehiro Tomiyasu has also been plagued by niggling injury issues over the past two seasons and Oleksandr Zinchenko has a troublesome calf problem that flares up now and then. So Arsenal were reportedly in the market for another versatile defender this winter.

The likes of Jorrel Hato and Miguel Gutierrez were among Arteta’s prime targets but they were unavailable for transfer mid-season. Ultimately, Arsenal couldn’t buy any of their key targets this winter. And with Timber on the road to recovery and Tomiyasu back from the Asian Cup soon, Arteta opted against buying another defender this month.

Some felt like Arsenal could also have done with another option in midfield. Thomas Partey has barely played all season due to injury while Kai Havertz is still settling into his new midfield role, so many believe we still need another top class central midfielder. However, with Partey now back to full fitness and Emile Smith Rowe also available again, any changes in midfield were unlikely in January.

What did Arsenal do?

Nothing. In the end, Arsenal failed to bring in any new faces to strengthen the first team squad. Reports suggest that money is tight as Arsenal need to ensure they remain within FFP guidelines. And with our prime targets out of reach, Arteta was unable to bring in any new players this winter.

The only piece of business that affected the first team saw goalkeeper Alex Runarsson join Copenhagen after his contract was terminated by mutual consent.

The vast majority of our business was centered around academy players and sending youngsters out on loan. Left-back Lino Sousa was sold to Aston Villa on a permanent deal, which was a surprise to some as he’s been highly-rated at the club. Bradley Ibrahim moved to Hertha Berlin on a permanent deal while Charles Sagoe Junior joined Swansea on loan.

Miguel Azeez joined Atletcio Baleares on a permanent deal and Omar Rekik headed to Servette on loan. Marquinhos was recalled from his loan spell at Nantes and is heading off to Brazil.

Where has it left us?

So Arsenal go into the second half of the season with a virtually unchanged squad. I think it’s obvious the squad is still worryingly thin in some places so it’s a huge risk from the club not to strengthen.

Injuries to William Saliba and Tomiyasu in March last year derailed our title push last season. Let’s hope we have more luck this time around as we simply don’t have the required depth to cope if key players pick up injuries over the coming months.

Defence is the main concern as we have just five fit first team defenders. Ben White, Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes and Zinchenko are the first choice back four, but if any of them get injured again we’re in trouble. Jacub Kiwior has failed to establish himself since arriving from Italy so it would be a big concern if Arteta has to rely on him.

The good news is Tomiyasu will be available again soon once he’s finished at the Asian Cup. He’s able to play anywhere across the back four so his versatility will be a big asset. As long as he stays fit and we don’t suffer any serious injuries in defence, Arsenal should be fine. Timber could also make his return to action within the next month or so, which would be a big boost.

Arsenal are also without that prolific striker we desperately need and in the end that could be the deciding factor when it comes to winning the league or Champions League this season. You don’t often win a major trophy without a 20+ goal-a-season striker. Arteta will just hope that his front three rediscover their touch in front of goal.

What did our rivals do?

Fortunately for Arsenal, it was a very quiet window all-round as none of our main rivals really strengthened that much. Man City bought one youngster from South America but otherwise the only significant business was offloading Kalvin Phillips to West Ham on loan.

Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Chelsea all did nothing. Aston Villa spent around £15m bringing in winger Morgan Rodgers, goalkeeper Je Gauci and youngster Kosta Nedelijovic so there wasn’t really a lot of significant business at Villa Park either.

Perhaps the only club who did strengthen was Tottenham. They splashed out £25m on the signing of highly-rated defender Radu Dragusin from Genoa. They also signed Timo Werner on loan from RB Leipzig to strengthen their attack, so Spurs did some decent business in January.

Ultimately, it was one of the quietest winter windows in recent memory with the majority of big clubs doing virtually no business at all. January is never an easy time to buy, but it looks like FFP and PSR rules have forced clubs to tighten their belts. The likes of Arsenal will now have to wait until the summer to open the chequebook again.