Arteta wants a midfield signing, but it won’t be easy

With Man City in the FA Cup tomorrow, Mikel Arteta met the press yesterday. We’ll deal with the team news and the match preview tomorrow, but most interesting part of the press conference came towards the end when he was asked about the absence of Mohamed Elneny among rumors that the midfielder could be out for the rest of the season .

Arteta said:

There are some concerns, especially as Mo never complains about anything but let’s see.

He had some issues with his knee that we are assessing at the moment and I’ll have to see how he evolves in the next couple of days.

The Egypt international reportedly picked up a knock in training ahead of the North London derby, so was absent for that, and wasn’t in the squad for the win over Man Utd on Sunday. He’s been present, I mentioned him congratulating Eddie in yesterday’s blog, so it’s not as if he’s on crutches or anything, but it does sound as if something is going on.

Mikel Arteta rarely gives much away when it comes to injuries, so for him to even say there are some concerns in relation to a question regarding Elneny’s involvement for the rest of the season might be telling. If there is a significant problem, you can understand why – with less than a week of the transfer window remaining – Arsenal want to keep that under wraps. It’s difficult enough to get deals done in January, so if every potential selling club out there knows there’s a measure of desperation, it won’t make it any easier.

He was then asked about further recruitment in January following the arrivals of Leandro Trossard and Jakub Kiwior. The Polish international is a centre-half who has played in midfield, but my suspicion is that Arsenal don’t really have any plans to do that. Which isn’t to say it couldn’t happen in a pinch, just that I think they see him very much as another option to provide depth, cover, and competition for Gabriel as a defender.

On new signings, Arteta said:

We need some more cover in midfield ideally if we can, but in this market it is pretty complicated to do that.

He then talked about how the focus is getting the best out of the players he has etc etc, which is part of playing down our need publicly. However, reading between the lines as much as we can, it seems very much like he wants a new midfielder before the window closes. In some ways, there are parallels with the summer when we found ourselves in this very same position towards the end of the window because of injuries to Elneny and Thomas Partey. This time, at least, we have secured the attacking player the manager wanted, but it’s still a delicate enough situation.

I think every one of us would like more midfield depth, but the thing to take into account here is the very public, and rather unfortunate, knowledge that our summer target is both high profile and expensive. There’s no way the Declan Rice links were leaked by the club, they would have much preferred for that to play out behind the scenes as much as possible, but it’s out there and they have to deal with that.

Again, there are parallels to another window, this time last January. At that time, we held our fire and waited for the main target – and nobody can argue that Gabriel Jesus wasn’t the right signing in the summer. The issue was that by doing nothing we left ourselves just a little short to secure top four. This time around the stakes are even higher. What we could miss out on by a fine margin will feel much worse, even taking into account it was Spurs that beat us to the Champions League last May.

If Declan Rice is throwable in the summer for Arsenal, they should go for it. He’s an excellent player with loads of Premier League experience, and his best years ahead of him. Like it or not though, he that he plays apart in what happens now. Not simply from the club’s perspective and how we might need to use resources and funds in the market, but also the kind of player you can get in the last few days of the window.

No doubt Arsenal would be an attractive destination for a lot of players right now, I don’t think you’d need to work too hard to convince someone to come, but at the same time, if they see a future which means a lot of time on the bench because you’re competing with the existing midfielders + potentially someone like Rice in the summer, it might be a consideration. The fact Partey and Xhaka are heading towards the September of their careers might help, as could the relative assurance of Champions League football next season, but it’s not quite as cut and dried as it sounds. And that’s not even talking about who might be available this month as many clubs don’t want to sell in January, and quite often players don’t want to move mid-season too. Good players are usually at good clubs who have things to play for and don’t want to end up weakened in the last days of the window with little time themselves to react.

None of that diminishes Arsenal’s need, of course, but we’ll just have to keep fingers crossed that between now and 11pm on Tuesday night we can pull something off.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. Back tomorrow with an FA Cup preview and a brand new Arsecast. Until then.

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