Looking for clues about how Arsenal might react to the loss of Theo Walcott with a cruciate ligament injury, the most intriguing place to start is with their No11. Mesut Özil's arrival last summer for a fee that obliterated their usual modus operandi in the transfer market symbolised a new willingness to deal at the highest end of the financial spectrum. The critical question for now, though, is to what extent that deal transformed their thinking.

For all the positivity which accompanied that striking piece of business, the message from within the club remained cautionary. Yes, it augured well that Arsenal felt able to flex new financial muscles but no, it would be wrong to suddenly expect every transfer to be in that bracket. The notion that they would have bought Özil and their other main summer target, Luis Suárez, in one window was one that provoked some highly arched eyebrows.

While their German is widely rated according to his £42m transfer fee, the price of the deal in the club's eyes is more or less double that, including salary spread over the years of his contract. Certain clubs might be able to weigh in regularly for such deals. Arsenal still have to pick and choose when they will go for it.

A more realistic guide to how they wish to navigate the transfer waters is with a mixture of signings. Wenger has certainly not given up his liking for buying what he considers to be reasonable value – they were specialists in the £10m-or-so range for a while, to land players who grew to be worth every penny in the likes of Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker. Özil-esque signings will be more of an exception than a rule.

Recently Wenger suggested they were more likely to go for a short-term solution to the question of cover for Giroud but the Walcott situation has challenged that mindset. This January there is a strong will to buy a player who will enhance their title challenge.

It will involve a substantial budget but the difficulty – as David Moyes has emphasised – is that trying to find the quality of player added to availability is a sum that seldom adds up at this time of year. Arsenal have been looking to Germany for the quality, with Julian Draxler and Marco Reus keenly followed but availability is a problem. Both have release clauses (Draxler's kicks in come the summer and Reus's a year later) so to pre-empt them would be extremely costly. Also, neither player seems particularly enamoured of moving mid-season. It is quite a conundrum.

The urge to deal with a Walcott shaped hole (added to the fact Wenger was already pondering another attacker to share Giroud's load) means Wenger must rethink his usual disdain for the January market (his last big name winter signing was Andrey Arshavin for £15m in 2009). Even though he has long held the opinion that it is a bad time to buy, he may be tempted to overspend if the right player, and seller, will come to the negotiating table.

And if not? He will fall back on the options in his squad, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is close to a return to the action for the first time since the opening day of the season, and Serge Gnabry, the teenager who excelled in the FA Cup win over Tottenham, earmarked to share the load.

It will not be easy to replace what Walcott brings to the party in terms of his speed. When he is in the team, opposition defences have to be mindful that he might spring behind them. The pity for Arsenal is that Walcott was recently showing he had added other dimensions to his game to make the best of that pace. Wenger praised his "aggression" against Spurs. There was more personality, more relish to make things happen in his performance.

Sometimes you have to improvise if you cannot replace like with like. When Robert Pires suffered a similar injury in the run-in to the 2002 title, the players who stepped up to cover for the creativity which had blossomed enough for Pires to be voted footballer of the year were experienced internationals in their peak years. Freddie Ljungberg chipped in with vital goals. Ray Parlour and Sylvain Wiltord worked the flank intelligently in Pires's absence, and added goals of great significance to help Arsenal win the Double.

For all of the encouraging talent of Gnabry, and hopes over the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain after a six-month rehabilitation of his own, it will be a big challenge to expect them to have as consistent an impact. Gnabry is 18, with two Premier League starts to his name. Oxlade-Chamberlain is 20, with fewer than 20 Premier League starts. Both players are powerful, talented, and have bright futures. Wenger may well entrust them to seize this opportunity.