Signing a defensive midfielder was always a priority for Arsene Wenger since the start of the season and though the 23-year-old Francis Coquelin has filled in that position commendably, an experienced head is very much required in arguably the most important position on the field. Just look at Liverpool’s resurgence since the introduction of Brazilian Lucas Leiva at the base of their midfield. Liverpool were languishing in the bottom half of the table before going on an unbeaten run in the league that has seen them rise to just four points off Arsenal.
So far in the January transfer window, Wenger has brought in Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal to strengthen up his shaky defence, along with a 17-year-old midfielder Krystian Bielik from Legia Warsaw. The latter, who has played the full 90 minutes in a competitive game just one so far this season is a highly surprising signing if he is going to be a back-up for Coquelin and Mathieu Flamini, as Wenger claimed last week upon the Polish youngster’s arrival.
“It’s less than £2m. It’s an awful lot of money for a player if he doesn’t succeed. If he does succeed then it’s cheap. He will go into the first-team squad.”
“He’s a defensive midfielder, 6ft 2ins, he has a good energy level and technical level. Also, it’s a gamble. But on what we saw it’s worth taking,” Wenger said.
Surely it is too much of a gamble heading into the business end of the season as the race for 4th place heats up, and as crucial Champions League games await around the corner. Therefore the former Monaco manager must consider signing an established midfielder, and a certain Real Madrid player is up for grabs if Wenger decides to splurge further in this transfer window.
Asier Illarramendi finds himself unwanted at the European Champions and needs to leave for pastures new sooner rather than later since his time at the Bernabéu looks up especially with the arrival of Lucas Silva from Brazilian outfit Cruzeiro. Having started just three league games so far this season, the Spaniard risks damaging his career if he does not leave the capital by the end of the window.
Athletic Bilbao have tabled a £19 million offer but the 24-year-old is unlikely to join them out of loyalty for Real Sociedad. Once seen as a replacement for the midfield maestro that Xabi Alonso is, Illara could start afresh with a move to England where Alonso plied his trade for five years. He is a player Arsenal fans have been screaming out for a long time. With his defensive qualities, he would be a perfect fit to marshal in front of their defence and with the best years of his playing career still ahead of him, have a chance to also break through into the Spanish national team.
Arsenal though are thought to be holding out till summer before making a move for the Madrid star as they think of him as a long-term replacement for Mikel Arteta.