Arsenal can land ‘new Patrick Vieira’ and solve problem with clever January transfer ploy

Mikel Arteta defends Arsenal players after Claudio Ranieri accusation

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The January transfer window may not currently seem to be that important to Arsenal, who are enjoying a strong run of form under Mikel Arteta going into the international break. The Gunners are unbeaten in 10 games across all competitions and have taken 20 points from a possible 24 since the end of August – but a problem could be on the horizon.

The African Cup of Nations has long been an issue for Premier League managers and this season is no different.

After the last tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, AFCON returns in the New Year and is scheduled to run from January 9 to February 6 in Cameroon.

That is a month which could prove crucial to the season for Arsenal – and one which they will have to do without Guinea’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ivory Coast’s Nicolas Pepe, Ghana’s Thomas Partey and Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny.

While captain Aubameyang and £72million winger Pepe will be big misses, it is the latter pair which could cause the biggest problems.

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The absence of Partey and Elneny in central midfield could leave just Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ainsley Maitland-Niles as the only two specialist players in that position, depending on the severity of Granit Xhaka’s knee injury.

That is potentially a very difficult problem for Arteta to solve, but one which could be addressed in the January transfer window.

Arsenal showed in the summer that they have the funds and the will to bolster their squad in the transfer market. The Gunners spent around £130m to bring in six new players and are now seeing the benefits of that recruitment drive.

One more player in the mid-season window could go a long way – and thankfully for the club, they have a way of getting him for a knock-down price.

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Arsenal have been linked with Denis Zakaria in the past and a January move for the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder would be a good way to solve their upcoming midfielder shortage.

Zakaria is out of contract with Gladbach at the end of the season and the German club could therefore be tempted to cash in this January, rather than lose him for nothing in July.

The 24-year-old has a good profile, has bundles of Bundesliga experience and has already won 38 caps for Switzerland.

While he is principally a defensive-minded player, he has chipped in with two goals and one assist in nine league appearances so far this season. And his playing style will make pleasant reading for Arsenal fans.

“I’ve been compared to [Patrick] Vieira and [Paul] Pogba – two more players I really respect and, in a way, see as role models,” Zakaria has said.

“He reminds me of Toni Kroos at that age,” said Germany legend Lothar Matthaus.

“He combines many qualities that were really defined by Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane,” according to Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

With those references it’s not surprising that Roma, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have all been linked with Zakaria. But Arsenal could have a trick up their sleeve to make it happen.

According to The Sun, Gladbach are interested in signing Eddie Nketiah. And while Arteta has made it clear he wants to keep the 22-year-old striker, his contractual situation could force a difficult decision in January.

Like Zakaria, Nketiah is out of contract in the summer and he is yet to commit himself to the club by signing an extension.

If they so choose – and if Nketiah is keen to follow the Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham route by moving to Germany – Arsenal could cut a deal with Gladbach for Zakaria.

Those kinds of decisions don’t need to be taken just yet. But they should certainly be on the agenda of director of football Edu in the coming months, as the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone doesn’t come along often in football.

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