It’s been said repeatedly over the course of the last few months, but Arsenal's golden opportunity to win the league for the first time since 2004 has just been and gone. Defending champions Chelsea imploded, Manchester United were improving at a snail’s pace under Louis van Gaal and Manchester City never looked like going all the way despite an impressive start.
After a last gasp 2-1 victory over surprise table leaders Leicester in February, most folk suspected the Foxes’ dreams were over and that the Gunners would steal a march at the top. But they only accumulated seven points from the next 21 possible and never got close to Claudio Ranieri’s side again.
Arsene Wenger's contract expires next season, and while there’s no chance of him getting sacked, it does seem like the Frenchman acknowledges his side’s failure this season. Granit Xhaka has already been signed from Borussia Monchengladbach, and Wenger clearly wants his business done swiftly. But the Swiss midfielder's arrival should only be a start...
1. Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli)
Arsenal fans groan about the Higuain fiasco of 2013, when the club had reportedly agreed a fee for the Argentine only to be pipped by Napoli later on. He might now be 28 but the former Real Madrid striker would still be a top signing for the Gunners, regardless of some of the perceptions about his international performances.
A renowned goalscorer wherever he goes, Higuain has just had the season of his life with 36 league goals in 35 games (doubling his league tally from the previous season) – equalling an almost 90-year-old record in Italy. It wasn’t enough to get Napoli the title, though, as Juventus yet again triumphed in Serie A.
A move to north London may be tempting, where he can slot straight into the starting XI and play with a better supporting cast of players. He's a much superior finisher to Olivier Giroud who can also run with the ball, and for Arsenal fans the prospect of him playing alongside the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez is hugely appealing. Despite a potentially large fee for the Argentine, Wenger has reportedly earmarked him as his main target up front. If it happens, it would be some statement to the rest of Europe’s elite.
2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund)
With the departure of Tomas Rosicky and the uncertain future of Theo Walcott, Mkhitaryan would be a good option to add depth to Arsenal’s frontline, both out wide and as a playmaker.
Dortmund's Armenia international is a versatile attacking midfielder who is technically gifted, quick and contributes well at the sharp end, having scored 11 goals and crafted 15 assists in the Bundesliga this season. He's reportedly been watched by Arsenal scouts this season, and notably performed well against the Gunners in the 2013/2014 Champions League group stage.
With his contract set to expire in 2017 and having failed to agree a new contract with BVB, the 27-year-old would be an ideal signing for Wenger. According to Armenian sources, Arsenal have already negotiated a contract with his agent.
3. Marquinhos (PSG)
One position that needs strengthening is at central defence – Per Mertesacker has been inconsistent, Gabriel failed to take his chance this season and Calum Chambers seems destined for a bit-part utility role. With Laurent Koscielny the only defender Wenger seems to trust (and who looks set to be the new captain), the Frenchman could do worse than pursue the signature of PSG defender Marquinhos.
He's one of the most talented defenders in world football, but the Brazilian has often found himself behind Thiago Silva and David Luiz in the central defensive pecking order ever since the latter’s arrival in 2014. While he can play at right-back as well as in defensive midfield, the former Roma man wants game time in his preferred position and could find that in north London, forming a formidable partnership with Koscielny.
Already an admirer of Premier League football, Marquinhos will however have no shortage of clubs interested with Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City all reportedly interested in the 22-year-old.
4. Michy Batshuayi (Marseille)
Because strengthening up front is paramount, Wenger needs an alternative to Higuain if that move doesn't work out – and Marseille's Batshuayi would be another interesting option. With Danny Welbeck’s long-term injury, the Ligue 1 goal-getter would be the perfect signing to compete alongside Giroud.
The talented 22-year-old – who will feature for Belgium in Euro 2016 – plundered 17 goals and added nine assists for a struggling Marseille side this season and has all the tools to be one of Europe’s deadliest strikers. Much more agile than Giroud, able to use both feet, a clinical finisher and having displayed his dribbling ability in France, it’s with no surprise that Marseille president Vincent Labrune claimed there isn’t a single top-15 club in the world that isn’t interested in the Belgian.
Labrune is all but resigned to the former Standard Liege striker leaving the Stade Velodrome this summer, and clubs like Spurs and West Ham are reportedly interested. Batshuayi has stated in the past that he’s a fan of Arsenal, though – and while the reported asking price is €50 million, the Belgian's potential is immense and under Wenger's tutelage he could reach it sooner rather than later.
It's been quickly forgotten how much Manchester United spent on Anthony Martial – and with Batshuayi, it could be a similar case.
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