Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal cannot afford to waste the January transfer window that follows the Premier League’s restart. The league leaders lost Gabriel Jesus to a knee injury suffered while playing for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar, leaving them without a key inspiration behind their five-point advantage over Manchester City.
“We are going to be active and active means we are looking to strengthen the team,” said Arteta, whose side’s mid-season break included winning the four-team Dubai Super Cup tournament. “This squad still doesn’t have the luxury of not maximising every single window. We have to do that because it’s really important. But then we have to get the right profile, it has to be the right player to take us to the next level.”
Mykhaylo Mudryk, the Ukraine winger, is the player most heavily linked, though Shakhtar Donetsk’s public asking price of €100m may be prohibitive. Reports have put Jesus’s return date as mid-February but his manager refused to set a timescale.
“A season has its challenges, and that’s a challenge we have to overcome but if you’re going to be at the top there’s going to be those challenges,” he said. “Knowing him, I prefer not to give any dates. It’s going to take time, for sure. He’s had surgery, that tells you the extent of the injury.”
William Saliba returns to training on Friday after he played less than 30 minutes in a walk-on part as France reached the World Cup final, meaning Arteta has a full complement of returnees from Qatar. “They were all fine,” said the manager. “Some came earlier than expected and they were buzzing to be back and part of it. I feel a really good energy around the place. They have got straight away into the rhythm and what we want.”
Before Boxing Day’s home match with West Ham, a muscle injury to Reiss Nelson has further reduced Arteta’s attacking options, though Emile Smith Rowe’s return after an injury-ravaged season is imminent. On Nelson, Arteta said: “Reiss, he’s going to be out for a while. I think I’m talking about weeks. He felt something straight away and with sprinters that’s not a good sign.”
Before the transfer window opens on 1 January, Arsenal must negotiate West Ham, managed by David Moyes, Arteta’s mentor at Everton, before a New Year’s Eve game at Brighton. Arteta credited Moyes with a “huge impact” on his coaching career. “I am so grateful first of all for the trust he showed in me and how much I learned from him on the field, off the field about building a team, about getting the right characters in the team to build what you want.”
During the six-week hiatus, Arteta travelled to the United States to meet the Kroenkes, Arsenal’s owners. “It’s a very special relationship right now to understand the way they think about sports, what they’ve done in other sports and with other franchises. The ambition is there and the alignment is certainly there as well. It’s certainly positive to spend some time together.”
Meanwhile, Fulham are linked with the Arsenal defender Cédric Soares, though Arteta said: “We know where we are in terms of the squad and numbers that we have. We’ll be extremely cautious about what we want to do in the window.”