The Gunners, for once, made serious strides in the latest transfer window, despite losing star man, Alexis Sanchez. It is certainly a rarity for a team to lose their best player and somehow be better off for it, but that is exactly what Arsenal seem to have managed.
For starters, Sanchez was just six months away from leaving the club for absolutely nothing. And while it’s disappointing that his contract situation got to that stage, to bring in someone in the ilk of Henrikh Mkhitaryan as part of the deal was nothing short of a masterstroke.
Indeed, the Chilean wasn’t the only player to depart the Emirates, with established squad members, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin also leaving for a combined fee of around £50 million. So, to lose three fringe players and bring in one of Europe’s most prolific strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, in his prime for just a few million more seems an absolute snip.
And then there was the small matter of Mesut Ozil’s shock contract renewal on deadline day, which – in itself – is a huge signing.
Obviously, there is still a long way to go before Arsenal are back at the top of the Premier League challenging for honours. But the shrewd business of January shows they are heading in the right direction.
Of course, the Gunners are in the final of the League Cup against Manchester City, as they hope to end Pep Guardiola’s quadruple hopes and bringing a trophy to the Emirates. But the bigger priority is the not so small matter of the Europa League – which currently represents Arsene Wenger’s best hope of returning the club to the Europe’s premier club competition: the Champions League. Indeed, as of the end of January, Arsenal are at hefty 6/1 in Premier League betting markets to finish in the top four and qualify for the tournament domestically.
Can Aubameyang Return Arsenal to the Champions League?
Alexis Sanchez has led the Arsenal line since joining the club from Barcelona in 2014, but few could have hoped for a replacement at the level of Aubameyang.
Naturally, it is a shame that the pair, along with Ozil, couldn’t have played together in North London. But with a forward line now containing Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang, opposition defences are on full guard. Indeed, the latter had long seemed destined for Real Madrid, having netted a remarkable 141 goals in 213 appearances during his five years in Dortmund.
And it’s not like Arsenal paid over the odds for Aubameyang. By the current market standards, his £57 million price tag is widely agreed to be outstanding value.
But while the pacey Arsenal forward line may have rekindled attention from the league’s elite sides, a defensive rebuild is still required at the Gunners. That said, after years of stagnation in the transfer market, Arsenal have at last made a positive stride forward. So maybe a new back line in the summer isn’t beyond the realms of possibility?
Nevertheless, the one thing that is not in doubt is that Arsenal certainly ‘won’ the 2018 January Transfer Window. Now the big question is; can the Gunners get back to winning major honours?