Three successive defeats in all competitions have plunged Arsenal into something of a mini-crisis heading into this much-needed winter break, with any lingering hopes of securing the title perhaps resting on whether or not the north Londoners are able to secure a top-class striker before the window slams shut in just a few weeks’ time.
As chances were repeatedly spurned in an infuriating outing against rivals Liverpool in the FA Cup last week, club legend Ian Wright summed it up best by stating that his former side “need a killer” – someone who can bury that myriad of glaring opportunities.
Finding such a ruthless option in the January market is no small feat, however, with the price tag for a certain Ivan Toney likely to have crept up and up as the Gunners’ forward line failed to finish their dinner in that 2-0 defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s men.
At present, it is believed that the club’s leading target is likely to cost more than £100m if Brentford are to sanction a sale, with Chelsea also said to be in the picture amid their own woes in attack, having seen Nicolas Jackson depart for AFCON.
While it is a big if, if Arsenal can edge out the Blues and seal a deal for Toney this month it could perhaps turn the title tide back in their favour, with Mikel Arteta seemingly able to find the missing piece of the jigsaw that he so desperately craves.
Should a move for the Englishman be wrapped up in the near future, here’s a look at how the Gunners could line up following the close of the January window…
GK – David Raya
The jury is out on whether Arteta actually needed to upset the apple cart by usurping Aaron Ramsdale’s position as first-choice goalkeeper, yet despite Raya having made two errors leading to goals this season in the Premier League, it looks as if Toney’s former Bees colleague will continue to feature in the sticks – having started 15 of the last 16 league games.
RB – Ben White
The former Brighton and Hove Albion man is seemingly viewed as a crucial figure by his manager, although needs to improve in an attacking sense, after registering just one goal and one assist in all competitions this term.
CB – William Saliba
What is there really to say?
Described as “exceptional” by his manager amid his fine displays over the last 18 months or so, the Frenchman is integral to all that is good about the Gunners at the heart of the backline.
CB – Gabriel
Despite being linked with an exit over the summer, Gabriel has continued to remain the go-to guy alongside the man above, notably getting on the scoresheet in the recent 1-1 draw at Anfield – doing what those in the forward line cannot at present.
LB – Jurrien Timber
The sight of Jurrien Timber in training in recent days has sparked hope that a return could be on the cards for the Dutchman, with the summer signing still yet to feature since suffering a cruel ACL blow on his league debut back in August.
His impending availability will certainly offer a real boost amid Oleksandr Zinchenko’s recent woes, with the Ukrainian international – who has been described as a “liability” by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville – having even been ousted by usual centre-back Jakub Kiwior of late.
CDM – Thomas Partey
As Arteta has himself admitted, the loss of both Timber and Thomas Partey to injury has been a “huge blow” to the Gunners’ season, hence the lift that the Ghanaian could provide amid reports that he is nearing a return.
Having the Atletico Madrid man back in the fold could offer some great stability at the base of the midfield, thus allowing Declan Rice to push into a more advanced number eight berth alongside him.
CM – Declan Rice
While the Kai Havertz experiment has shown signs of life in recent weeks and months – the German now having four league goals to his name this season – it would be wise to return to a more conventional midfield unit, with Rice taking on the Granit Xhaka role on the left-hand side.
Although not typically deployed as an eight during his time at West Ham United, the England star has that knack for being able to surge forward from deep effectively – notably ranking in the top 20% among his European peers for progressive carries per 90 – with that trait able to be utilised far more frequently in a more attacking berth.
CM – Martin Odegaard
That tactical switch could then free up Martin Odegaard to run riot in the final third, with the majestic skipper having scored just four goals and provided only four assists this term in the league, after previously racking up 23 goal involvements in the top-flight in 2022/23.
RW – Bukayo Saka
It may pain Arsenal supporters to admit, yet Bakayo Saka has been as culpable as any of his teammates of late, having scored just one goal in his last six league outings – that solitary strike coming in the recent shock defeat away to Fulham.
That said, at his best the 22-year-old – who bagged 14 goals and 11 assists last term in the league – is a true genius, with the addition of a figure like Toney potentially set to help ease the goalscoring burden on his young shoulders.
ST – Ivan Toney
Speaking of the one-time Newcastle United man, Toney has been out of action all season after serving a suspension related to betting charges, yet there is no doubt he’ll be raring to go if a move to the Emirates is to occur in the coming weeks.
Having bagged 32 Premier League goals across the previous two seasons – including netting 20 times last term – the 27-year-old could be the ‘killer’ that is needed, having even been described as a “modern-era Ian Wright” by pundit Jermaine Pennant.
Yes, the Gunners could wait until the summer, but cannot they afford to be patient when the need for a striker is so glaringly obvious?
LW – Gabriel Jesus
His fellow Brazilian, meanwhile, has also come up short himself with only four goal contributions in the top-flight, yet the former Manchester City man could thrive if able to revert to the role he was utilised in so effectively during his time at the Etihad.
A “fantastic leader” who “thinks about the team” – according to Martin Keown – the selfless talent is simply too good a player to leave out, while he could also relish the chance to work off a more natural focal point like Toney.
Arsenal’s dream lineup in full if Toney signs in January: GK – Raya; RB – White, CB – Saliba, CB – Gabriel, LB – Timber; CDM – Partey, CM – Rice, CM – Odegaard; RW – Saka, ST – Toney, LW – Jesus