Whisper it quietly, but things are actually going kind of well for Arsenal at the moment.
Having won four league games on the bounce the Gunners unexpectedly find themselves comfortably in the Champions League places, while Chelsea and Liverpool in third and second respectively are not entirely out of reach.
Granted, Arsenal have benefitted from their rivals having fixtures postponed as a result of Covid-19 outbreaks, but that’s still some turnaround for a side that started the season with three consecutive defeats in which they conceded nine goals and scored all of zero.
Head coach Mikel Arteta has already admitted he is open to ‘tweaking’ the squad in January, and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe and Mohamed Elneny all set to represent their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations, there could well be work to be done.
It seems as though it was a case of one disciplinary breach too many when Aubameyang returned late from a trip abroad in mid-December.
Arteta has stripped the striker of the captaincy and he has not been seen in an Arsenal shirt since. Although he’s now off to represent Gabon at AFCON, this is clearly a situation that needs sorting out as soon as possible.
Given they’re going well as we enter the new year, any dressing room drama should be avoided at all costs. Either sell him now or reintegrate him into the squad.
A few months ago Alexandre Lacazette’s time at the Emirates Stadium seemed certain to end when his contract expires in the summer, but the Frenchman is enjoying a fine season having reinvented himself as a roaming number ten.
Given the situation with Aubameyang, Lacazette is also shouldering some of the goalscoring burden, not to mention that of the leader on and off the pitch having inherited the armband.
Suddenly his future seems less cut and dry, and a short-term contract might be the best option going forward.
The centre-forward position dominates this list for Arsenal.
Another whose future is up in the air is Eddie Nketiah – who gave us our annual reminder of his talents with a poacher’s hat-trick against Oxford United recently.
Whether he has the ability to deliver consistently in front of goal and whether he fits Arteta’s system are the big questions. Aubameyang’s scenario might open the door, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll settle for being a rotation option.
What’s clear is that Arsenal could do with a striker who makes all the aforementioned predicaments irrelevant.
Aubameyang is no longer the go-to man for a 20+ goal season. Arsenal must go out and show their intent by spending big.
The problem is that the options are limited. Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic would be the dream signing, but that’s unlikely to happen in January. However, if they table a lucrative pre-contract ahead of the summer, then who knows?
They will face some serious competition, but Arsenal have shown in the past that they still have some draw despite their absence from the Champions League.
It’s become clear over the past 12 months that there are a number of players in the Arsenal squad who aren’t up to the task, and in fairness to Arteta he has shown a ruthlessness in getting rid of them.
The Spaniard has already revealed that the wheels are in motion regarding outgoing loans for some of the club’s fringe players, including Ainsley Maitland-Niles who is close to joining Roma.
The likes of Sead Kolasinac and Pablo Mari are two others who are surely living on borrowed time. Get them off the wage bill and free up some funds for those ‘tweaks’.