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Arsenal transfer dilemma: Do injuries mean Arteta needs to dip back into the market?

10:59 BST 31/08/2022
Stan Kroenke Mikel Arteta Arsenal GFX
The Gunners have spent big in the window - but injuries and a lack of cover for Saka could leave them thin.

Thursday night’s transfer deadline is getting ever closer and it still remains to be seen whether Arsenal will decide to dip back into the market for one final time this summer.

There’s no doubt that they want to, Mikel Arteta has said as much countless times in recent weeks. But wanting to do something and actually being able to do it are two very different things when it comes to the transfer window.

For the second successive season Arsenal have spent big this summer without bringing in any sort of significant revenue from the market themselves. 

And while club sources continue to insist that is not a problem and that there are no issues surrounding Financial Fair Play regulations, there is an acceptance that spending on that level can’t go on forever.

And that’s why the message coming out of Arsenal at this stage is that it’s unlikely they will push the boat out on one final big deal, although the possibility can’t be ruled out entirely - with injuries now beginning to have an impact, especially in midfield.

The question is, just how big of a risk will it be if Arsenal do opt against bringing in at least one further addition?

If you ask that question to the majority of fans they will say it’s a big one. With many believing two players - a central midfielder and a winger - are a necessity if Mikel Arteta’s side are truly going to compete on all fronts this season.

Both are areas that Arsenal have been considering strengthening.

Youri Tielemans has been a long-term target, but so far the Gunners have opted against making an official offer for the Leicester City midfielder - despite months of talks behind the scenes with his representatives.

Leeds United winger Raphinha was targeted earlier in the summer before his move to Barcelona and Wolves’ Pedro Neto continues to be monitored by the north London club. Shakhtar Donetsk's Mykhaylo Mudryk is also said to be on the agenda.

But despite the interest in these players and plenty of discussions internally and with agents, Arsenal have kept their powder dry due to the money the selling clubs are demanding.

As is always the way during the latter stages of the transfer window, a game of poker emerges between clubs over potential deals.

It’s a case of who will blink first.

But Arsenal showed in January that they will not do things just for the sake of it.

They were under immense pressure to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but they decided to wait because they couldn’t find a deal they believed was right.

And it would be no surprise to see that happen again, even with Nicolas Pepe having been allowed to join Nice on loan last week.

“If we can implement the plan that we have, we will try to do that,” Arteta said, while discussing whether Arsenal would replace Pepe before the end of the window.

“In the plan, that [Pepe’s loan move] was something that could happen - now it’s a reality and we’ve been preparing the last two months in order to achieve what we want. Whether that’s possible or not, we will see.

At the start of the window, we signed players before getting other players out. Now we’ve done something different. 

“We’ve let a player go and will maybe be able to recruit somebody. But it’s not a guarantee because the player is still not here. What I guarantee is the day that window closes, for me this is the best team in the world and I will try to get the best out of them.”

There’s no doubt that the work Arsenal have done in the transfer window this summer has improved Arteta’s starting XI.

Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have added real quality, while the return of William Saliba following his loan spell with Marseille has added even further depth to Arteta’s options.

But there are still weaknesses and the injury to Thomas Partey which saw him miss Saturday's win against Bournemouth and looks set to rule him out of Wednesday night's clash with Aston Villa proved exactly that.

Partey is incredibly important to how Arsenal play and is a huge miss whenever he is absent.

Arteta's side had a win percentage of 66.7 per cent when the midfielder started in the Premier League last season, that dropped to just 42.9 per cent when he wasn't involved.

And with Mohamed Elneny, who is usually Partey's deputy, also now injured - can Arsenal afford to go through the entire season with the relatively untried Sambi Lokonga as the only real Partey alternative?

And the same question hangs over Arsenal’s options on the right side of the attack.

If Neto doesn’t arrive and other potential targets are also overlooked, do they have enough to cope? 

With Pepe having been allowed to leave, there is now no real natural option to replace Saka, should he get injured or be in need of a rest.

The England international is durable, but he clearly tired during the latter stages of last season and his performances and output dropped. The England international has also started the current campaign looking some way off his best level.

Arsenal can’t afford to run Saka into the ground and the lack of back-up is an obvious flaw in the squad.

Summer signing Fabio Vieira is an option and he started on the right wing when he made his debut for Arsenal’s Under-21s earlier this month, with Arteta watching on in the stands.

But while he can clearly do a job there, it’s not his natural position. Brazilian teenager Marquinhos is another untried option and there is also Reiss Nelson, who is currently out injured.

So Arteta does have players to turn to should Saka get injured. But again, the drop off is abundantly clear.

That’s why there is some concern amongst the fanbase that the squad could be caught short without any further additions and it’s why Arsenal continue to explore the possibility of doing a late deal before Thursday night's 11pm cut off.

They do still have time to make something happen, but that time is now in short supply.