Arsenal currently sit top of the Premier League, and will spend Christmas day 5 points clear of Manchester City in second place, but their squad remains thin in places.
“It’s the same squad as when we win. I said from day one that we have a short squad because at the end we left some players. It’s what we have”, Mikel Arteta explained after their Carabao Cup third round defeat to Brighton.
“If everyone’s available and no one is injured we are okay, but the moment there is, we know what it is. It’s nothing new. I think I said it the first day after the transfer window.”
So, with the Gunners needing extra bodies, we take a look at five players that the club, and the fanbase, should be keeping an eye on this World Cup.
1. Youri Tielemans (Belgium)
First on this list is a man that will need no introduction, with Youri Tielemans having been heavily linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium all summer long, only for a move to materialise as the Gunners baulked at the Leicester City asking price.
But, with his contract running down (he will be down to his final six months in January), a transfer could once again be on the cards, and the Belgian will have yet further opportunities to impress as he lines out for the Red Devils in a group containing Canada, Morocco and Croatia.
Long-rumoured to be Arsenal’s no.1 choice in central midfield, another string of impressive performances in a more possession dominant side could finally force Arteta and co. to move for the 25-year-old.
2. Facundo Torres (Uruguay)
Another rumoured Arsenal target that will be on show this winter, Facundo Torres has shot to prominence as a result of his sparkling form in the MLS, which saw him grab nine goals and eight assists in 33 MLS outings, and has seen him break into the Uruguay side too.
Capable of playing anywhere across the front line, it is still unclear as to whether or not he will be a starter for the South American side, but in a tricky group that also includes Portugal, Ghana and South Korea, it will be worth keeping an eye on how his form in the US translates onto the international stage if he is given the chance to showcase his abilities.
3. Yeremy Pino (Spain)
One amid the multitude of wingers that Mikel Arteta’s side have been regularly linked with, Pino shot to prominence under Unai Emery at Villarreal, and though perhaps somewhat lucky to bag a spot on the plane in current form, is one of a host of young stars that Spain are looking to rely upon in Qatar.
A slight, tricky winger, the 20-year-old is thought to have been free to leave last summer should an offer have come in for him that was deemed acceptable, but stayed with the Yellow Submarine as no concrete bids were made.
With just 234 minutes to his name with the National Team, he is unlikely to start for Luis Enrique, but his devastating pace could be a major asset against flagging defences late on in games, so we’re tipping him to have quite the impact from the bench.
And, with Arsenal in the hunt for a man who can help them get over the line in the title race, the Spaniard is one to keep a close watch over.
4. Lovro Majer (Croatia)
Another one off the long line of Croatian central-midfielders, Majer will have to fight off the likes of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic just to earn a start for his country, something that should go a long way to demonstrating his talents.
Capable playing in a deeper role as well as being a more box-to-box midfielder, the 24-year-old has been linked with moves to the Premier League before, though nothing has ever been concrete.
But in Qatar, he will be looking to add to his 11 caps, and should he impress, a move could finally be back on for the Rennes man.
With Arsenal having already been linked, and with midfield clearly an area of concern for Mikel Arteta, Majer is one to keep an eye on.
5. Marcus Thuram (France)
Injury to Christopher Nkunku could push Marcus Thuram up Didier Deschamps’ pecking order, though he will likely still be reduced solely to cameos from the bench with all of Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann likely to be ahead of him in the mind of the Les Blues coach.
But, with Thuram out of contract in the summer and with no intention to extend his deal with Borussia Monchengladbach, top clubs will be sniffing. The 24-year-old forward has managed 10 goals and 3 assists in 15 outings in his best season to date, and is sure to be a valuable addition to any side that he joins next season.
With the Gunners in need of experienced options on the flanks, he could be one way to outsmart the market before the summer, or grab him at a snip to help push their title charge in the second half of the campaign.