The 2019 January transfer window is tearing across Europe. Clubs across the continent are working to sign the desired players that would revitalize their offensive capabilities and players are leaving clubs in search of better success elsewhere.
English club Arsenal F.C have recently been in pursuit of the Colombian attacking midfielder, James Rodriguez, as he approaches the final six months of his two-year loan at Bayern-Munich from Real Madrid. It has been suspected that because of Rodriguez’s poor impact in the Bundesliga (the German soccer league) he has fallen out of manager Niko Kovac’s favor and Bayern-Munich are looking to end his tenure at the club.
An end that Arsenal are willing to fulfill by adopting him for the rest of the season and paying the residual £3 million on his loan fee. However, Kovac and Bayern-Munich’s sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, have dissolved the rumors that speculated Rodriguez was moving to Arsenal. According to bundesliga.com, the Colombian has expressed his extreme contentment with the club, “I’m very happy here [Bayern]…I can imagine staying here for many years”.
Still, those reassurances are not a guarantee that the club will retain the Real Madrid star. In an interview posted on 90min.com, Salihamidzic stated that Bayern will use the last six months of the season to decide whether they will sign Rodriguez permanently or not. In an alternate statement, Kovac stressed the importance of Rodriguez’s performance in the remainder of the season, saying, “James is playing for his future. I expect him to keep pushing. I see that he is motivated and focused, he wants to play more than in the past. As a coach, I can only rate what I see on the pitch”.
If Arsenal are unable to gain Rodriguez, then they have to wait to pursue loan deals in the winter because they currently lack the necessary funds to add any more players to their team. With Welsh central midfielder Aaron Ramsey joining Juventus on a free transfer at the end of this season, Arsenal needs to sell a player before they can buy another.
That option is becoming a more viable solution as the transfer window closes. Attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, has allegedly demonstrated a strong desire to leave the club and the club has been rumored to have a keen interest in obliging him. With only 3 goals in 13 appearances this season, the 30-year old German may find his place at another club soon despite his contract ending in 2021.
Even with a desire to gain new players, Arsenal’s current squad is still a recognizable force in the ongoing Premier League. In their most recent match on January 19 2018 against Chelsea, their higher-ranked English rival, Arsenal emerged victorious.
Their performance was so impressive, that one would think they were the higher ranked team. Their victory was as much deserved as Chelsea’s loss was. Throughout the match, Chelsea were simply not as aggressive as Arsenal. Chelsea possessed the ball the majority of the match in Arsenal’s own half and still could not score. When Arsenal gained possession of the ball they were able quickly move it down field with smart passes and good plays.
Arsenal attackers found themselves open to passes with little effort and could have improved Arsenal’s standing if not for Chelsea’s critical last-minute defense. Chelsea’s offense underperformed as well. In the first half, most of the goal-scoring opportunities were long passes from central defender David Luiz. In the second half, Chelsea pressured their rivals more heavily in their own half, but still could not combat Arsenal’s solid defense.
Chelsea should consider themselves very fortunate that they only loss by 2 goals because there were several times that Arsenal could have improved their Premier League standing due to bad passing and poor defense. The victor’s performance was a testament to Chelsea’s lack of motivation and their need of more proficient goalscorers.
According to a session from skysports’ podcast, Transfer Talk, released on January 18 2018, Chelsea have been on the search for a striker to replace Spanish center forward Alvaro Morata, who will soon transfer to Spanish team Atletico Madrid after a disappointing run with Chelsea.
In an attempt to revive its offense, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri moved Belgian left-winger Eden Hazard, into the vacant center forward position. Hazard played that position against Arsenal and was subpar. It was frustrating to watch because Hazard is the type of player to go straight to the ball and take it up the field, but at his new position he’s not even getting touches on the ball.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid are desperate to bolster their attacking potential after Cristiano Ronaldo transferred to Juventus last summer in 2018. Hazard has become their primary prospect for replacing Ronaldo and Hazard has shown a strong desire to go to the Spanish team at the end of his last year with Chelsea, who have futilely offered to extend his contract. Yet, according to Belgian football journalist Kristof Terreur, Eden Hazard has rejected two offers from Real Madrid, meaning that he is waiting for them to propose a larger fee, which they might.
With Morata leaving soon and Hazard leaving by season’s end, Chelsea is facing quite the offensive dilemma. However, there may be a shining light at the end of Chelsea’s dark tunnel from southern Europe.
Sarri has proposed to bring in Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain, who is on-loan at Italian club A.C Milan from Juventus after Ronaldo was signed. Higuain could be the perfect fit to fill the absent striker position.
According to Italian football expert, Adam Digby, Sarri has wanted to sign Higuain since he got to Chelsea. They were together at Italian club Napoli and since then, Higuain hasn’t had a better scoring season. Under Sarri, Higuain broke the single season-scoring record held in Serie A for 66 years, with 36 goals in 35 matches during the 2015/2016 season. At Napoli, Higuaín was the focal point of Sarri’s attack and was able to finish a steady streams of scoring opportunities. He was such an incredible scorer that Juventus broker their transfer record of €90 million to sign the then 28 year-old.
At A.C Milan Higuain has scored an unimpressive 8 goals in 22 matches since he was loaned from Juventus. But he is not the one to blame, that falls on the poorly constructed team, who don’t create many chances for him to score. Higuain is not a good fit at Milan, but at Chelsea he’d be a perfect fit for the team Sarri is trying to forge. Higuain’s offensive approach is with quick-passing and a slow pace. Sarri wants a goal-scoring 9, a finisher of the chances set up for him and Higuain can provide that for Chelsea. A more consistent and reliable finisher than Morata, Higuain’s arrival would allow Hazard to return to his natural position at the left wing, and further improve Chelsea’s attacking potential.
Both have referred to their strong dynamic as a father-son relationship. When Higuain transferred to Juventus from Napoli, the owner of Napoli and Higuain shared a rivalry alongside the fans of both clubs, but Sarri and Higuain still had a very good relationship.
Chelsea isn’t as completely welcoming to the Argentine striker as Sarri wants it to be. Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia is hesitant to sign Higuain because of his age and his potential resale value. To sign the striker Chelsea would have to accept the £16 million loan fee and the £32 million pound transfer fee.
In the end, the deal would work for everyone. Sarri gets his striker and Chelsea won’t get a long-term deal for big money, minimizing their risk. If he performs well at the end of the season, Chelsea would only pay the loan extension fee for another 12 months rather than the transfer fee.
The next six months will determine the future of many players and the potential shift of power to the teams they go to.