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Leon Goretzka is one of the players eligible to join Arsenal on a free transfer next summer.TF-Images/Getty Images

The January transfer window will open on New Year’s Day. That will inevitably lead to Arsenal fans urging the club to add immediate reinforcements to the squad.

However, January is also a time for forward planning; at that point, the Gunners will be able to enter negotiations to sign foreign-based players on free transfers.

That would be a particularly smart strategy for Arsenal. With Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil both able to walk away without the Gunners receiving a fee unless the players agree new deals, Arsene Wenger needs to consider ways to augment his squad without spending too much.

Arsenal have already appointed Sven Mislintat to improve their recruitment team, which suggests they are aware they are entering an important period of squad building. As soon as Mislintat has his feet under the desk, he will be scouring the list of players whose deals expire in 2018 for potential signings. 

Last summer’s Bosman acquisition, Sead Kolasinac, already looks like a shrewd move. In this piece, we take a look at four players Arsenal could bring to the club for nothing in the summer of 2018.

              

Leon Goretzka

GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 20: Leon Goretzka of Schalke controls the ball during the Bundesliga match between FC Schalke 04 and 1. FSV Mainz 05 at Veltins-Arena on October 20, 2017 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty I

TF-Images/Getty Images

German midfielder Leon Goretzka is already being talked about as a prospective Arsenal signing. Earlier in December, Daniel Cutts of The Sun reported that the Gunners are set to beat a number of top European club to the player’s signature:

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is closing in on a free transfer for Schalke star Leon Goretzka.

“The German midfielder is out-of-contract next summer, and wants to leave for a new challenge.

“A number of Europe’s top clubs have looked at snapping the 22-year-old up, including Manchester United and City.

“But the Gunners are confident they have won the race for his signature, in a major coup for Wenger’s men.

Goretzka plays for Schalke 04—the same club Kolasinac left last summer. They seem to have as much trouble keeping their stars as the Gunners do.

Central midfield isy an area where Arsenal could do with reinforcements. Their first-choice partnership is Aaron Ramsey alongside Granit Xhaka, although there are doubts over whether the Switzerland international is of the requisite calibre to be at the hub of a successful Arsenal side. 

There also isn’t much competition for places. Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny have been exposed as little more than squad players, while Jack Wilshere’s fragility means he is unlikely to hold down a first-team place. As for Santi Cazorla, there must now be doubts over whether the Spaniard will play again after his latest injury setback.

Goretzka would be a terrific addition to Wenger’s options. He is a box-to-box midfielder, with his remarkable stamina enabling him to be effective at both ends of the pitch.

It’s his exploits going forward that he has become best known for. He has a knack of arriving into the box at the perfect time to meet cutbacks from wide areas. Combine that with an impressive long-range shooting ability, and Goretzka offers a real goal threat.

There is bound to be plenty of competition for someone as gifted as Goretzka. The player himself has indicated that January will be when his future is decided. Speaking to reporters recently, he said:  “I have to find out for myself what the next step should be. I have to consider a million things. I am a person who is very meticulous in such decisions. I play through all the scenarios. So I need time. There doesn’t exist a deadline, but I think we are in the final phase. The final decision will be made in January.” 

It’s quite rare that the opportunity arises to sign a player who could immediately strengthen your first XI for no transfer fee. Goretzka’s potential availability is one such opportunity, and Arsenal simply have to make him a big offer in January.

            

Kepa Arrizabalaga

BILBAO, SPAIN - DECEMBER 02:  Kepa Arrizabalaga of Athletic Club reacts during the La Liga match between Athletic Club and Real Madrid at Estadio de San Mames on December 2, 2017 in Bilbao, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

By the end of this season, Petr Cech will be 36. It’s essential Arsenal start looking for a long-term replacement for the veteran shot-stopper. 

That’s not likely to be David Ospina. The Colombian’s contract expires at the end of this season, and he’s likely to take the opportunity to seek first-team football elsewhere. If Wenger were serious about anointing Ospina as Cech’s successor, he might well have given him more chances to test himself in the Premier League.

Wenger has never put too much emphasis on the goalkeeping position, muddling through with the likes of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski for longer than was appropriate. He can’t afford to make a similar mistake again—Arsenal must move for a top young goalkeeper to ensure they are not too reliant on an ageing Cech.

Kepa Arrizabalaga would fit the bill. The 23-year-old is still a relative novice but is already being talked about as the next great Spanish goalkeeper. 

He has been a regular for Spain’s under-21s, and it’s surely just a matter of time until he is challenging David De Gea for a place in the senior side.

To put his progress in some perspective, while he is the same age as Arsenal prospect Matt Macey, he is already playing regularly in La Liga for Athletic Bilbao. Macey, meanwhile, has only made one start for the Gunners.

The biggest issue here is going to be competition. Having been foiled in their moves to sign De Gea, Real Madrid are reportedly hot on Kepa’s case. According to Marca, the Spanish champions are prepared to pay the £17 million needed to buy out Kepa’s contract in January (h/t Will Griffee of MailOnline).

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