Fashioning a January Shopping List for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal
Arsenal FC are on top of the Premier League with the high hopes of staying there, and the right signings in the January transfer window could result in a first trophy since 2005.
But who are the men Arsene Wenger should sign, and what positions need strengthening?
All the ingredients are seemingly in place. They have won eight games on the bounce since an opening-day defeat to Aston Villa. Mesut Ozil has come in from Real Madrid, Olivier Giroud is the league's joint top scorer and Aaron Ramsey has been simply outstanding.
Optimism is rightly high and the January transfer window cannot come around quickly enough.
Here, Bleacher Report sets about putting together a winter shopping list for Arsene Wenger and his high-flying team.
Who do you think the Gunners should sign in January?
Leave your Arsenal thoughts, comments and transfer predictions and wish lists in the section below.
Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic
Hughes is just five games into a philosophy change at the Britannia and will need to bring in his own style players to further his project.
Asmir Begovic is one of the jewel's in Stoke's kingdom. Hughes could demand in excess of £10 million for the Bosnian international and last term he linked with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool according to the Sun.
A bid of such an amount would no doubt interest Hughes as financial funding is tight at Stoke and he needs to make changes from the previous regime. The Potters are also short of real talent up front. They could use the money to sign a forward as they already have Begovic's long-term replacement in Jack Butland.
There is little doubt that Arsenal are lightweight in terms of goalkeepers. Arsene Wenger's team currently has four goalkeepers eligible for first-team action.
Wojciech Szczesny is the undoubted No.1, Emiliano Viviano has just joined the club and is best regarded as a backup, Lukasz Fabianski has not developed as hoped and Damian Martinez is still in the early stages of his career.
In short, there is no real competition for 23-year-old Szczesny.
Begovic would instantly challenge for the No. 1 spot, and at this stage of his career is arguably a better 'keeper than the young Pole.
Center-Back: Neven Subotic
Neven Subotic is one of the highest rated defenders in the world today. Christopher Atkins rated the 24-year-old Borussia Dortmund defender as the 16th best in the world for B/R Football this past summer.
The Serbian international has been with Dortmund since 2008 and has formed one of the best central defensive partnerships in world football with Mats Hummels. Subotic is an excellent ball-playing defender and is not afraid to get his hands dirty with the uglier side of the game.
He fits the prototype of an Arsenal player exactly and comes with the added bonus of being fluent in German. This small but important fact would help him settle in with the Gunners very quickly as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Ozil, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld and Gedion Zelalem are all German.
Since then, Dortmund have lost Mario Goetze to Bayern Munich and it would now seem as if Robert Lewandowski will follow him. Lewandowski confirmed to the SPORT1 television channel that he would be joining Bayern next January as per the Irish Independent. However, later the same day he denied any pre-contract agreement with the German giants as per the BBC.
There is rarely smoke without fire in such situations and another potential loss of a star player could provide the perfect situation for Arsenal to exploit with Subotic.
Center Midfield: Dennis Praet
Even considering the incredible conveyor belt of football talent coming out of Belgium at the moment, it is no exaggeration to say that Dennis Praet is one of the hottest talents the country has produced since Enzo Scifo.
Praet has been scouted by the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, FC Barcelona and Inter Milan, according to the Daily Mail, and given trials by Arsenal. It came as a huge surprise to everyone, even in Belgium, that the youth then chose home-club RSC Anderlecht as his preferred destination in 2011.
Since then the 19-year-old has made 60 first team appearances for the Purple and White.
Praet, who has represented his country at every level from U15 to U21, is a rare player in that he comes across as having an old head on young shoulders. He is a gifted passer of the ball and reads the game beautifully for someone so young. As his strength develops, the 5'10" 19-year-old will surely go on to become one of his country's most important midfielders.
Arsenal do not need to strengthen center midfield per se. They are well stocked with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and Mathieu Flamini not to mention Thomas Eisfeld in the reserves.
Praet, however, at 19, would represent an intelligent step towards succession planning. In just two seasons his transfer value has gone from €200,000 to €7 million according to Transfer Market.
If he manages to make Marc Wilmots' team for the World Cup next year—the Euro's in 2016 seem more likely at this stage of his development—his value could rocket even higher.
Attacking Right Midfield: Julian Draxler
There are very few top scouts around Europe who have not been to look at Julian Draxler over the last couple of years.
The German international has long been touted as one of the next big star's of the game. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder is reported in the Star to have turned down a move to Arsenal last summer. He is cited as having stated his desire to stay in Germany so he remains part of Joachim Low's plans for the World Cup.
Mike McGrath of The Sun is now claiming that Draxler is a "long-term" target of Arsene Wenger.
Draxler is primarily used as a central attacking midfielder by Schalke, but he has been known to play out wide and can often be found in these positions during games. Indeed, the youngster was often utilized as a left-sided attacking midfielder when Lewis Holtby was at the club.
That being said, the highly talented youngster is comfortable anywhere across the attacking three in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The 6'2" German international has just broken into Low's team and has seven caps to his name. He faces stiff competition to claim a starting berth though as Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Mario Goetze, Tony Kroos, Andre Schurrle and Thomas Muller are all ahead in the pecking order.
What Draxler does have in his arsenal, pun intended, is blistering pace, superb technical ability and, most importantly, versatility. If he were to join Arsenal he could play anywhere across the three.
Imagine, an attacking midfield trio comprising of Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Draxler.
All Arsene Wenger has to do is spend around £30 million to make it so.
Striker: Luis Suarez
The Daily Star claimed that Arsenal were chasing Suarez, Rooney and Gonzalo Higuain on July 11. They, however, signed no forward of international note despite the speculation.
Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United in the League Cup opens up a number of interesting possibilities regarding Suarez.
The Uruguayan striker agitated for a move, as per the Guardian, to the Gunners before he eventually withdrew his appeal to and apologized to the club and its fans.
Now that the Reds are out of the League Cup their chances of qualifying for Europe have lessened considerably. Given the financial prowess and playing power that Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have over Brendan Rodgers' team it is highly unlikely they will finish in the top five.
Taking it as a given that Liverpool will not finish in the European positions that leaves the FA Cup and their last throw of the dice regarding midweek football next season.
The FA Cup third and fourth rounds in January have now become all the more important. Should they lose those matches it is highly possible that Suarez will look to move again.
Ian Ayre, Liverpool's managing director, has said to the Daily Mirror he "expects" to begin new contract negotiations with the 26-year-old next summer. Suarez is out of contract in 2016.
If Liverpool cannot guarantee the star Champions League football, he is unlikely to stay around unless the Reds offer him an incredible deal.
Whatever deal Ayre can offer, Arsenal have the financial might to better it and offer Champions League football into the bargain.
Statistics provided by Who Scored, Squawka and UEFA.
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