With Granit Xhaka suspended for upcoming clashes and Thomas Partey away with Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations, Arsenal faces a short-term midfield crisis.
Mohamed Elneny is also at AFCON and Ainsley-Maitland Niles has departed for Roma on loan, leaving Mikel Arteta with 22-year-old Albert Sambi Lokonga as his only available senior central midfielder.
Plenty of Gunners fans around the globe must have breathed a sigh of relief when Sunday’s North London Derby was postponed, but Arteta’s men must still navigate the EFL Cup semifinal 2nd leg against Liverpool on Thursday and then the visit of Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday. Only then might they start to see a few central men trickle back to London Colney with Arsenal’s next outing at Wolves only scheduled for February 10th.
Juventus midfield schemer Arthur Melo is reportedly close to sealing a loan switch to the Gunners from Juventus, but which other players are Mikel Arteta currently looking at? Let’s start with the Brazilian.
🇧🇷 Arthur Melo
♻️ The short-term loan option
Melo moved from Gremio to Barcelona in 2018 for just under £30m, becoming one of Brazil’s priciest exports. Things have stalled somewhat for the 25-year-old Brazilian on a personal level, having become a fringe player at Juventus after a highly-controversial big-money switch from Barcelona that saw Miralem Pjanic move the other way. Still, Arthur is a Copa America winner and has 21 Brazil caps under his belt.
He’s known for his tenacity in the tackle as well as his technical security on the ball and ability to recycle possession. In Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal system, possession of the football is key. Arthur also has a willingness to battle in the centre of the park which might be appealing to the Arsenal boss, who possessed a mean streak of his own during his playing days.
🇧🇷 Danilo dos Santos de Oliveira
🏦 The long-term purchase option
Still only 20 years old, Palmeiras holding midfielder Danilo fits Arsenal’s new recruitment model of purchasing young players to safeguard their future value, in the case of a sale, and more importantly to help the squad develop and grow in parallel with one another.
Danilo is already a two-time Copa Libertadores winner and his playing style isn’t dissimilar to that of Granit Xhaka. According to popular Arsenal blogger and writer Tim Stillman, Danilo is “a left-footed, passing deep-lying midfielder BUT can dribble past pressure too.” Danilo was by far the youngest player in Palmeiras’ starting XI against Flamengo, proof that he’s clearly not fazed by the big occasion.
It seems likely that the Copa Libertadores champions of 2020 and 2021 won’t entertain offers for him now because of the imminent Club World Cup, but expect Arsenal to try and get their man in the British summer.
🗣 “He is developing very very well, left-footed, dynamic, interesting range of passing, he is one for the future.”@Tim_Vickery says he would be surprised if Palmeiras sold Danilo to Arsenal in January with the club very focused on the Club World Cup pic.twitter.com/2C7NPFmvtK
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 13, 2022
🇵🇹 Rúben Neves
🔧 The tried & tested Premier League option
Wolves’ Portuguese midfield general is a superb technician with a wonderful passing range, and he isn’t afraid to get stuck into tackles either. He’s also defensively astute in terms of sensing and then snuffing out danger to start attacks from the base of midfield. In fact, only four players made more interceptions than Arsenal’s new centre-back Ben White in the 2020-21 Premier League season; Jan Bednarek, Yves Bissouma, Josh Brownhill & Neves himself.
If the Gunners can install the 24-year-old in the engine room ahead of White, Mikel Arteta’s men might be able to get a stranglehold on matches by hogging possession and creating higher-quality chances for their attackers. Neves really is the complete central midfielder, aside from his lack of goals.
🇧🇪 Youri Tielemans
💭 The dream option
With bags of Premier League experience already, it’s hard to believe that Youri Tielemans, like the aforementioned Neves, is still just 24 years old. His screamer in the 2021 FA Cup final against Chelsea is evidence that he’s capable of the spectacular, but he’s also an intelligent passer, prober and mover who enjoys dictating the tempo of football matches and disrupting defensive systems with smart layoffs and one-touch sequences.
When he’s not on the ball creating chances for teammates, he’s running ahead of the ball-carrier to occupy dangerous positions in the opposition final third. He is a complete midfield player and Leicester will have a battle on their hands to keep hold of their prized asset.
Quite how much money it will take for Brendan Rodgers to consider selling is anybody’s guess, but don’t hold your breath on this one just yet. Who would you like to see Arsenal pursue in the January transfer window, and indeed in the summer window at the end of the season?
Arsenal’s next engagement in the Premier League is against Burnley at the weekend, but before that, they welcome Liverpool to Emirates Stadium in the EFL Cup semifinal 2nd leg.