LONDON: Arsenal completed the planned reshuffle of their attacking options on a transfer deadline day which saw Premier League spending hit a winter window record of about £300m writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Manager Arsene Wenger gained Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang from Borussia Dortmund in place of France striker Olivier Giroud who is heading off to Chelsea in the uncertain hope of gaining more playing time to secure his place in his country’s World Cup squad in Russia.
Aubameyang arrived in London for a medical on Tuesday after not testifying as planned at Monday’s hearing over the attack on the Dortmund team bus in April 2017 because of illness. The 28-year-old has become Arsenal’s top earner with a three-and-a-half-year deal worth £180,000-a-week.
Chelsea made room for Giroud by sending Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi on loan to Dortmund to fill the Aubameyang void.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has strengthened midfield after arriving in exchange for Manchester United-bound Alexis Sanchez and made his debut in Tuesday’s grisly 3-1 defeat by Swansea.
He will still be partnered next season in midfield by Mesut Ozil after the German decided to extend his contract, preferring the certainty of life under Wenger to the uncertainty of France or Italy or Turkey.
However, vast gaps are opening up in Arsenal’s defence as was illustrated by relegation-threatened Swansea when the League Cup finalists suffered a sixth away Premier defeat after a string of defensive erros including, notably, by veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Simuiltaneously league leaders Manchester City completed the signing of Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao to strengthen the centre of defence just as manager Pep Guardiola learned that his attack will be missing Leroy Sane for up to seven weeks.
Sane’s absence compounds the selection issues for Guardiola with Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus still convalescing from a knee injury.
Sane suffered ankle ligament damage after being hacked down by Cardiff City defender Joe Bennett shortly before half-time in Sunday’s 2-0 FA Cup win. This is a serious blow for Guardiola because Sane had established himself as an important weapon in City’s pursuit of a quadruple which would be unprecedented for an English club.
He will certainly miss the League Cup Final against Arsenal at Wembley on February 25 as well as both legs of the second round Champions League tie against Basel and eight Premier ties at the busiest stage of the season so far.
City’s attempt to fill the gap with a late bid for Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez failed to materialise.
At least Guardiola has shored up defence with the arrival of 23-year-old Laporte for a club record £56.7m even though, while he has captained France at four separate youth levels, he has yet to win a senior cap. He can also play at left back which is useful for Guardiola who is short of options there since Benjamin Mendy’s cruciate ligament injury in September.
Guardiola wanted to buy Laporte on his arrival at City in the summer of 2016 but the player preferred to stay in Spain and play regular first-team football to develop his game and experience.
This suggests that he has been assured of a significant place at City as likely long-term successor to injury-prone Vincent Kompany and replacement for error-prone Nicolas Otamendi.
The top January transfers:
Fee (£ sterling) – Player – Club – From
75m Virgil Van Dijk – Liverpool from Southampton
57 Aymeric Laporte – Manchester City from Athletic Bilbao
56 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Arsenal from B Dortmund
27 Cenk Tosun – Everton from Besiktas
25 Lucas Moura – Tottenham from Paris Saint-Germain