It’s safe to say that January was a hectic month for the Gunners. On the pitch, results were rather inconsistent as the North London club struggled to defeat teams like Nottingham Forest and Swansea, but they were able to defeat rivals, Chelsea, to reach the final of the Carabao Cup.
Regarding the winter transfer window, Arsenal were surprisingly heavily involved throughout the month in order to make significant changes to the squad. Players who were surplus to requirements were sold and a new transfer record was set following the arrival of world-class forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With all of that being said, let’s take a look at the four defining moments of the January transfer window.
4) Signing Mino Raiola’s client Henrikh Mkhitaryan
On the 14th of January, news exclusively broke by Gianluca Di Marzio that Manchester United became the shock front-runners to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal with Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan heading the other way. As pretty much everyone was aware, the Chilean only had a few months left on his contract and was definitely leaving the club.
While it was certain the Red Devils were the new favourites to secure the Chilean’s signature, what was initially uncertain was who would be going the other way. In the last fortnight of the window, there were many conflicting reports detailing the proposed move of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United, as well as Mkhitaryan to Arsenal. Some stated the Manchester club would pay a fee as well as the Armenian for the Arsenal forward, some revealed the deal would be a straight swap, and others claimed the London club actually wanted Anthony Martial included in the deal instead.
In the end, it was finally confirmed by both clubs that the transfer would actually be a straight swap between the two players switching teams. Whilst Arsenal were able to get their man, it was also a significant transfer as a result of Mkhitaryan’s agent, Mino Raiola. For years, the Gunners have been known to avoid transfers with super agents including the aforementioned 50-year-old.
The last time there were negotiations involving the two, it ended with highly-rated youngster Donyell Malen leaving the club for PSV Eindhoven. In the following month, Raiola criticized the club stating, “Arsenal have the money, but do they have the balls?” With successful negotiations finally taking place between Arsenal’s new negotiation team and the super-agent, it could spark a new era of Raiola clients joining the club in future transfer windows.
3) Sven Mislintat gets straight to work
On the 20th of November, news swept across the capital that Arsenal had appointed the proclaimed “Diamond Eye”, Sven Mislintat, to become their new head of recruitment. While the former Borussia Dortmund man was joining the North London side, former Chief Scout Steve Rowley stepped down from his role. The 45-year-old has been accredited for discovering players including Ousmane Dembele, Shinji Kagawa, and also Robert Lewandowski.
In the January Transfer Window, the new head of recruitment was heavily involved in all of the transfers the Gunners’ made. First and foremost, the signing of Konstantinos Mavropanos from PAS Giannina for a reported £2 million is believed to be one of the many prospects Mislintat identified whilst at his former club. The Greek defender has enjoyed a successful start to life in North London, delivering positive performances for the U23s and also impressing Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. Interestingly, both of these factors combined played a part in the Greek defender remaining at the club, rather than be loaned out as originally intended.
Elsewhere, it’s important to note that the aforementioned “Diamond Eye” is believed to have also played a big role in bringing Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the capital. The two players played together for Die Borussen and many Arsenal fans hope the pair can replicate their outstanding performances from the 2015/16 season. The former registered 11 goals and 20 assists across the Bundesliga season whilst the latter scored on 25 occasions as well as registering 6 assists.
From travelling to his former club alongside Ivan Gazidis and Huss Fahmy to agree a deal to sign Aubameyang to encouraging the club to secure the signature of Mavropanos, the German has already had a positive impact at the North London club.
2) Mesut Ozil signs a new contract
Without a doubt, the best signing Arsenal have made all season came last week after it was confirmed Mesut Özil agreed terms on a new contract. Bringing in players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Alexandre Lacazette have all been beneficial and in the long-term securing the likes of Mislintat, Raul Sanllehi, and Fahmy will prove to be significant.
Despite all of this, agreeing a new contract with the World Cup winner is definitely the best piece of business Arsenal have made in a few years. The German international is an indisputable member of the Arsenal squad and would have been a significant loss to the club had he decided to leave at the end of his contract. His presence in the first team is crucial and the team’s performances are always significantly better in comparison to when the 29-year-old is absent from the squad.
With Arsenal currently in an apparent state of stagnation, securing a player of Ozil’s calibre until the end of the 2020/21 Premier League season shows a big intent by the club to compete and sign top players, as proven with the arrival of Aubameyang. For once, it feels great knowing that a world class player wants to remain loyal to the club rather than join a long list of players of who have left the North London side when they’ve needed them most.
In the past, crucial players like Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, and more recently, Alexis Sanchez have all followed this trend. What sets all of these individuals apart from the aforementioned German is that desire to do whatever it takes to bring success to North London, even if it means risking his final ‘prime years’.
Mesut Ozil joined the club when we needed him most, and has remained committed when the club needed him most. The way it’s going, he’ll join a long list of names as an Arsenal legend.
1) The End of the Dick Law Era
You’re probably surprised Mesut Ozil’s new contract was not saved until the very end, but when considering the long-term future of the club, the end of the Dick Law Era could prove to be the first stepping stone towards a bright future for the club.
Since his arrival in 2009, the former transfer negotiator has been under fire for his appalling work behind the scenes but remained a very close ally to Arsene Wenger. While Arsenal fans have already celebrated his departure, he’ll be a significant loss for the French manager. As David Ornstein pointed out on the @arsecast podcast, “they [Arsenal] were known to be the laughing stock of European football when it came to negotiations.”
For years, many have criticised the American for his role as the club’s negotiator, whether it be attracting underwhelming offers for players or for the contract fiasco’s the Gunners have been in, in the past. It’s no surprise that as soon as his future became clear and his work was coming to an end, the Gunners performed better in the transfer market. Albeit the arrival of Raul Sanllehi isn’t necessarily a direct replacement for Law, I wouldn’t be surprised if he played a crucial part in future transfer negotiations.