By George Sessions, PA
Mikel Arteta has hinted Arsenal will be active this month after he insisted they must continue to “maximise” every transfer window.
The Gunners take on Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday and will travel to the City Ground with a depleted squad.
Four players are away at the Africa Cup of Nations while Gabriel Magalhaes is suspended and there are some unspecified Covid-19 concerns in the camp.
After spending big in the summer to bring in the likes of Ben White, Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale, it was not expected the north London club would be too busy in January but Arteta says they are open to business amid links with highly-rated Fiorentina attacker Dusan Vlahovic.
“If it’s the right player, we can afford and we can do want we want to do, we will discuss it and come to the best possible decision. We are open,” he said.
“I think with the amount of things and the way we want to evolve the squad, we have to maximise every window in many different ways.
“We are alert. (Technical director) Edu and his team are working very hard because we know exactly what we need to do.
“Whether we can accomplish that in January or the summer is a different question and related to lots of other stuff but we are there.”
Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny being on international duty, coupled with Ainsley Maitland-Niles joining Roma on loan, has left Arsenal light in midfield.
💬 "When a player feels this way and has a strong argument, it’s very difficult to turn it away."
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 7, 2022
Yet Arteta again ruled out signing ex-Gunner Jack Wilshere, who has trained with the club in recent months but only to maintain fitness and expand his coaching knowledge.
The Spaniard added: “I was very clear with the situation with Jack and the role that he would have being around here. We continue in the same way.”
Arsenal’s lack of alternatives in midfield particularly for the month of January could have been solved by keeping Maitland-Niles until the end of the month when Partey and Elneny would have returned from Africa Cup of Nations duty.
But Arteta insisted: “We are very, very short but to be fair on a player this cannot be the only argument to try to keep a player.
“A player who has been developed and raised through our academy, a player who has been very patient in many moments to try and fulfil his dream.
“He was very straight with me and I understood the situation. We think it is a good option. Obviously we are going to move and look for options because we are very short there.”
One solution for Sunday’s clash with Forest would be to drop attacker Emile Smith Rowe into the centre of midfield alongside Granit Xhaka.
The Arsenal number 10 has played there this season and was used regularly in that position during his loan spell at Sky Bet Championship club Huddersfield in 2020.
What a year 💫
Thank you for all your support.🤍 pic.twitter.com/3aDUNT3k04
— Emile Smith Rowe (@emilesmithrowe) December 31, 2021
Smith Rowe has scored nine times for the Gunners during the current campaign but only started one of their last seven games.
Arteta explained: “Well the main reason was because he wasn’t completely fit to play. He’s been carrying an issue and that hasn’t allowed him to train regularly, to play regularly and that was the main reason.
“Because in his performances and what he did before that international break, there is no question that he was one of our more important and consistent players.
“Obviously now that the team has been doing well, there are other players who are doing well and have been performing well, that changed the situation, but I am very happy with him.”