Arsene Wenger has grown into a conservative businessman in his old age. Despite sitting on a treasure hoard, Wenger rarely spends big on a player, preferring to give youth and unproven bargains a chance instead.
Well, after a disappointing first half to the season, Wenger is expected to change course and splash out during this transfer window, in the aim of propelling the Gunners back into the chase for Champions League qualification.
With a reported £35m+ transfer kitty at his disposal, Le Professor looks more likely than ever to spend big this January, which is why Unibet are offering odds of 2.70 HERE for the boss to spend more than £10m on one single player.
Here, we shortlist the five key big money targets that could turn the fortunes of Arsenal this winter...
Target One: Marouane Fellaini, Everton
Gooners may never again want to see another Marouane on their team sheet after Mr. Chamakh proved an unreliable acquisition. But the curly haired Belgian is a different proposition, and with Wenger needing to add firepower in the middle of the park, Everton’s Fellaini should be top of his spending list this January.
Fellaini has been a revelation for Everton, particularly over the past 12 months since manager David Moyes pushed him further up the field – the Belgian international playing a forward-thinking midfield role rather than sitting in front of the defence. Fellaini would provide something Wenger simply doesn’t have: a physical presence in midfield that compliments the wry passing ability of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta.
The 25-year-old reportedly has a contract release clause of £22m – a fee that would smash Wenger’s transfer record but is entirely necessary to restructure their midfield.
Target Two: Adrian Lopez, Atletico Madrid.
Arsenal have struggled all season to find a replacement for Robin van Persie, with Theo Walcott proving competent yet not always effective as the lone striker. Olivier Giroud’s arrival couldn’t solve the problem while Lukas Podolski plays predominantly left of the main man.
Adrian, therefore, would be a real scoop for Wenger and with a reported £14.7m release clause would come reasonably cheap. Worryingly, the striker has only scored two in 23 appearances this season but has been played in midfield as Falcao runs riot in La Liga.
He is reportedly disenchanted with life in Madrid after falling down the pecking order and has started just 14 of his 23 appearances this season. At 25 years of age Adrian is just about young enough for Wenger to take this gamble and could prove a fruitful success should he earn starts at the Emirates.
Target Three: Brede Hangeland, Fulham.
What Wenger really needs is a voice at the back, for it is becoming increasingly evident that the often startled Laurent Koscielny is not commanding enough while Per Mertesacker lacks the reactions needed to defend to a top class level in the Premier League. They miss the authoritarian leadership that once made Arsenal defences so feared and in Hangeland they could have a man that leads by example.
The Norwegian has been linked with a move to Arsenal for a few seasons now after he rose to prominence as a competent and instructive leader in the heart of the Cottagers’ defence. He was a main component in Fulham’s memorable surge into the final of the UEFA Europa League and, importantly, is yet to sign a new deal with the Craven Cottage club.
Although talk of his move has cooled off this January, Wenger would not pass up a chance to move in for the defender and if things get desperate around 30 January the boss may be forced to put in an enquiring bid.
Target Four: Kevin Strootman, PSV
Cost: £10m + add ons
If Fellaini is too far out of reach, then Wenger may look to Holland, with international midfielder Kevin Strootman cropping up on his – and Manchester United’s – radar. Strootman has grown into a major part of PSV Eindhoven’s challenge for the Eredivisie title. He doesn’t posses quite the physicality of Fellaini and won’t bombard forward as much, but he is nevertheless a solid and strong midfielder.
This competence comes from playing alongside Mark van Bommel, Holland’s midfield hard man who has made collecting yellow cards - and commanding top level matches - a hobby. Strootman is not quite Van Bommel either, but at 22 he is already a strong, world class central midfielder with the skill to work the ball.
PSV are known for their conveyor-belt structure that brings players up through the academy before selling them on and Strootman, at £10m + add ons, would be a real scoop for Wenger’s side heading into the future.
Target Five: Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle.
Probably Wenger’s most likely signing before the transfer window is out, Ben Arfa has already stated he would like to stay in the Premier League – just not at Newcastle – or head to native France and earn a decent living at Paris Saint-Germain. Despite PSG’s billions, the lure of English football may give Wenger the edge in this bidding war.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will be loathed to see his best attacking midfielder leave St James’ Park and will put up a hefty fight to keep the Frenchman. He is confident on the ball and has an eye for goal, as well as a thread-through-needle pass that Wenger admires so much.
Ben Arfa also has the build, physicality and elegance of a ‘typical’ Wenger player (excluding Park Chu-Young and Chamakh) and will muck it out when the going gets tough. At a fairly pricey £17m, however, this transfer may only materialise if the Gunners boss cannot find anyone else before the deadline.
Will Wenger sign a big money star? Click here to check out our market on Arsenal's transfer activity this January...