Once again, Arsenal fans find themselves holding their breath as they watch the season unfold.
The Gunners currently sit in sixth place in the table with 39 points, some 22 points below league leaders Manchester City and just five points above Burnley.
They’ve struggled to establish a sense of consistency this season and lack a clear identity. Other than beating Everton 5-2 at Goodison Park at the end of October, and dismantling Huddersfield 5-0 in the latter stages of November, they’ve yet to completely dominate a match this year.
Coming off a 4-2 loss to Championship side Nottingham Forest, Arsenal are looking to spend big in this January transfer window.
After signing Alexander Lacazette from Olympique Lyon for a club record of £53 million, there was hope that he could propel Arsenal to the next level, helping them challenge for a top spot in both England and Europe.
Looking at Lacazette’s stats from 2016-17, this wasn’t an unrealistic objective. In his last year in Ligue 1, Lacazette scored 28 goals, the second most in the league behind PSG’s Edinson Cavani.
Arsene Wenger needed to replace Olivier Giroud as the main striker after Giroud managed to find the back of the net just 12 times last year (granted he was used as a sub throughout the majority of the season).
In comparison, Lacazette has only scored 8 goals this season, the twelfth most in the league. Wenger has even gone as far as removing him from the starting lineup this season to experiment with a different squad, not exactly a vote of confidence in the Frenchman.
This season, Wenger has a favored a 3-4-3, starting Alexis Sanchez, Lacazette and Özil up front. For opponents, this is a daunting trio that’s shown glimpses of potential throughout this year, but have failed to produce often enough.
The 3-4-3 leaves too much exposure in the back, and even though they may score goals, they concede goals just as often. With Kolašinac and Bellerin playing as wing backs who consistently push forward, the back three are regularly under pressure. No matter if the Gunners main back three of Monreal, Mustafi and Koscielny are healthy, they regularly look shaky in the back.
But Arsenal fans ought to have a glimmer of hope considering the recent transfer rumors of signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Dortmund, then swapping Sanchez for United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
It may feel like the end of the world to lose a strong playmaker like Sanchez, but losing him and signing Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan could be just what the club needs.
Sanchez is arguably the best player on Arsenal, but it’s difficult to line up in a formation where Wenger can play him alongside Özil and Lacazette and get the maximum productivity out of each player on the pitch.
As this season has proven, Wenger can’t play that trio together unless he plays an attacking formation with holes in the back. Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan will enable Wenger to change formations, setting up the team more effectively overall.
Unlike Sanchez, Aubameyang is an out-and-out striker who will either be able to play alongside Lacazette up front or as the sole striker, pushing Lacazette out wide where he’s comfortable playing.
Moreoever, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan would be reunited after having previously played with each other on Dortmund for three seasons from 2013-2016 where they were an exceptional duo.
This will give Wenger the opportunity to set up in either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-2-1-2.
In the 4-2-3-1 scenario, the three attacking midfielders from left to right would be Lacazette, Özil and Mkhitaryan with Aubameyang as the main striker up front. This would allow Özil to thrive in the #10 role.
In the 4-1-2-1-2 scenario, Wenger could push Kolašinac up to left mid, while Monreal plays left back, place Mkhitaryan at right mid, and then put Özil at attacking-mid underneath the striker partnership of Aubameyang and Lacazette.
Either way, it gives Wenger more comfort as he can finally revert to a back four. He would also lose zero attacking threat. Arsenal would form into a more dangerous attacking side.
This January transfer window provides a critical chance for the Gunners to greatly improve. Arsenal is one of the most fluid teams in the Premier League. These potential signings will only strengthen the club, helping Arsenal build an identity in the final 100 days of the season.