Arsenal transfer targets: 5 possible January window recruits reviewed

Updated: 23/06/2024

In the eternal circle that is the Premier League season, we have revolved back around to the January transfer window.

Like a snake eating its own tail, football is doomed to repeat itself forever. So we must tolerate the return of gossip, speculation, transfer live blogs, warchests, raids, swoops, wantaway players and spending sprees.

Given that Unai Emery has only had one transfer window to work with so far, it should come as little surprise that Arsenal are attracting a deafening buzz of transfer hype at the moment with stories coming at them from all directions like a storm of furious bees.

So which of those stories are nonsense and which of them are sort of credible? Here’s our verdict on Arsenal’s transfer business in 2019.

Ratings key

💰 = Donald Trump levels of believability

💰💰💰💰💰 = The player is literally in the club car park right now


Isco is apparently unsettled at Real Madrid under Santiago Solari (Getty Images)

Age: 26

Club: Real Madrid

Position: Attacking midfielder

With Mesut Ozil’s future up in the air in the moment after a string of ephemeral injuries and his omission from the north London derby for “tactical reasons”, many have speculated that he could leave Arsenal in January despite renewing his contract around this time last year. If numerous reports are to be believed, Emery is considering Isco as a replacement.

Arsenal have been linked with Isco for several years at this point, which makes us naturally wary, but he would fit the profile of a creative presence in the midfield who, like Ozil, could bring considerable cachet to the team. That said, the whole thing feels a little too convenient – not least the idea that two players with such high profiles could be exchanged in a neatly packaged swap deal.

Verdict: 💰💰

Cristian Pavon

Cristian Pavon (right) during the Copa Libertadores final against River Plate (Getty Images)

Age: 22

Club: Boca Juniors

Position: Attacking midfielder, forward

Arsenal have a lacklustre recent record when it comes to signing players from Latin America, with Denilson, Joel Campbell, Wellington Silva and Samuel Galindo just some of their less-than-impressive acquisitions.

With a decent but unspectacular goalscoring record for Boca Juniors, slight of build and standing at around 5’7, Pavon seems a little lightweight for Arsenal’s needs. He would represent a left-field signing and, with a price tag of £40m being thrown around, seems like an unnecessarily risky gamble, though it’s possible Emery sees something in him.

Verdict: 💰💰

Nicolas Pepe

Nicolas Pepe celebrates a goal for Lille (Getty Images)

Age: 23

Club: Lille

Position: Attacking midfielder, winger

Young, Francophone and technically gifted, Nicolas Pepe fits the profile of an Arsene Wenger signing perfectly. Emery, too, is a scholar of French football, and will no doubt have noticed Pepe’s 13 goals for Lyon last term during his final season as manager of PSG.

Having scored a further 12 goals this season, putting him joint top of the Ligue 1 table alongside Kylian Mbappe and Emiliano Sana and one league goal ahead of Neymar, Pepe certainly looks like a player with something to offer Arsenal. He has also laid on five assists for Lille, which suggests he could take on some of the creative burden were Ozil to leave.

Verdict: 💰💰💰

Keylor Navas

Keylor Navas could be an interesting option for Arsenal (Getty Images)

Age: 32

Club: Real Madrid

Position: Goalkeeper

While Arsenal already have a decent mix of goalkeeping options, both Bernd Leno and Petr Cech have made conspicuous mistakes this season. Having only signed Leno in the summer it would seem a little hasty to sign another goalkeeper in January, but Navas would provide sterner competition than Cech who is entering the deepest twilight of his career.

Leno is a talented keeper and deserves a chance to bed in at Arsenal, but Emery seems to want a more Darwinian approach at the club after years of gentle nurturing under Wenger. With Navas second choice behind Thibaut Courtois at Real Madrid, he seems like a realistic target and one who could push Leno to improve.

Verdict: 💰💰💰

Ousmane Dembele

Ousmane Dembele has had an up and down season at Barcelona (Getty Images)

Age: 21

Club: Barcelona

Position: Attacking midfielder, winger, forward

We have absolutely no idea how this transfer rumour is still rumbling on, but it is.

Ousmane Dembele is not moving to Arsenal in January, whether or not he has a bad attitude and an addiction to video games. The lad has scored nine goals in all competitions this season and, while he may not be the most popular player at the Camp Nou, he cost Barca £135.5m to sign and would command an absolutely bonkers fee.

Verdict: 💰

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