Having completed their priority of trimming back the squad in the first three weeks of the January transfer window, Arsenal head into the final days of the market looking to address the creative problems at the top of the pitch that dogged him in the early months of this season.
Last month technical director Edu told supporters that he would be looking for "a player with creativity in the middle" this month. It is not the only position they are looking for -- a veteran back-up for Bernd Leno is a priority over the next 10 days whilst Mikel Arteta opened the door Thursday to signing a more natural option at left-back -- but it is the one in which work has been the most long-standing. The likes of Emiliano Buendia and Houssem Aouar have been on Arsenal's radar for some time.
Martin Odegaard is another player they have long admired and with Real Madrid prepared to let him go on loan, Arsenal have expressed an interest over a temporary deal for the 22-year-old. They will find themselves playing catch-up to Real Sociedad, with whom he enjoyed an excellent 2019-20 season on loan, and though the Spanish side are his priority, he is understood to be "tempted" by Arsenal's proposal.
Odegaard is no stranger to Arsenal having visited their London Colney base as a 15-year-old at a time when he was being coveted by every major club across Europe. Real Madrid won that race but have not yet been able to afford the Norwegian regular minutes; he has made just five starts in all competitions this season.
Odegaard's availability on loan makes him particularly tempting for Arsenal, who do not have the sort of funds to spend in January that might allow them to sign other top targets such as Buendia. Norwich are insistent that they will not sell their star player as they battle for promotion from the Championship -- to change their mind would take a fee in excess of $50 million.
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They remain keen on the Argentine but having held informal discussions over a move before January, the Gunners have not looked to progress that deal. The same is true for Aouar whilst interest in Marcel Sabitzer and Isco has not translated into any formal offers.
Arsenal's approach to a new creative midfielder has been impacted by the impressive emergence of Emile Smith Rowe since the 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day. He has started every Premier League game since and fulfilled the rich potential that Arteta and club staff had long seen in him. Any signing this month would be brought in to compete with the 20-year-old rather than usurp him.
Smith Rowe is a key component of Arsenal's plans for beyond next season though for the time being neither player nor club intend to discuss an extension to a contract that expires in 2023. Those talks will come but for the time being there is an acknowledgement among all parties that focusing on his football is best for the young playmaker.
Arteta was notably relaxed about the possibility of not making a new signing this month having agreed to release Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Mesut Ozil. Sead Kolasinac and William Saliba have also left on loan.
"We are in that process right now," Arteta said when asked about potential arrivals. "We've done the first part (trimming the squad) more or less and now we are focusing on the second phase. Obviously this market and the context makes it really difficult but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do.
"We are looking at various positions because the movements that we've made in this transfer window with some players leaving the club leaves us a little bit short in certain areas. If we can then we will do it, if we can't then we will just keep going with what we have."
Despite Ozil's departure Arsenal have significant numbers in attacking positions, enough indeed that academy prospects Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson have found minutes hard to come by in recent weeks. Despite that Arsenal are understood to have informed Nelson that they do not plan to loan him out this month. Whether a new signing might change that stance remains to be seen.