The new Premier League season might be just a few days away, but the same problems still persist at Arsenal. Despite signing Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos, there continues to be one glaring weakness: centre back. This problem has been the subject of discussion for nearly 10 years now.
The full scale of Arsenal’s defensive problems
Sokratis is the best centre back at the club, but he’s 31 and will start to decline over the next couple of seasons. The Greek international is also a contender to become the next captain as Laurent Koscielny seems destined to leave.
With Koscielny set to depart that already frees up one slot in the starting line-up alongside Sokratis. 18-year-old William Saliba has joined from Saint-Etienne but he’s one for next 2020/21 as he was sent back out on loan for the upcoming season.
Shkodran Mustafi continues to be the subject of abuse from Arsenal fans calling for his departure. The German international was booed when he was brought on in the Emirates Cup last week, a nail in the coffin for the 27-year-old. He’s been linked with Inter Milan for the last two summer windows, with fans hoping that a deal can materialise.
Rob Holding is recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament suffered last December and has been tipped to become a regular starter. Fans will have to be patient though, as it will surely take some time for Holding to be back to 100%.
Calum Chambers has returned from a loan spell at Fulham, where he impressed as a holding midfielder rather than a centre half. Greek youngster Konstantinos Mavropanos is another option, but he would benefit more from a loan spell to gain useful experience.
With Arsenal lacking in numbers and quality in the heart of the defence, here are some names that they should look at signing. Remember, this is purely opinion!
Dayot Upamecano – Red Bull Leipzig
The 20-year-old is one of the brightest prospects in the world. The French youngster has experience in the Champions League and Europa League for Red Bull Leipzig, which could prove useful to Arsenal.
With Arsenal planning to the future with William Saliba, it would be a positive sign if another young and promising defender partnered alongside him. Upamecano’s versatility means that he can play in holding midfield if numbers were to get short.
Upamecano’s disciplinary record is encouraging, only receiving one red card in his career and only picked up 10 bookings in two seasons at Leipzig. To put that into perspective, Granit Xhaka was booked 13 times last season. Upamecano has the temperament and composure that Arsenal’s defence has been lacking for a long time.
Arsenal are rumoured to have had a £55m bid rejected, with Leipzig seeing Upamecano as a key player as they try to push further up the Bundesliga.
James Tarkowski – Burnley
A local approach would be to go for Burnley’s James Tarkowski. The 26-year-old has experience in the Premier League being a key figure since joining from Brentford in 2016.
Despite Burnley’s struggles last season, Tarkowski stood out as one of the biggest positives. The England international made 42 appearances in all competitions, with 35 coming in the Premier League. He played 3,087 minutes for Burnley in the Premier League last season, second only to fellow centre half Ben Mee.
Tarkowski also had an impressive disciplinary record last season, picking up eight bookings and no sendings off. This is far greater than most of Arsenal’s defence last season, so Tarkowski would be another much-needed composed figure at centre back.
Burnley value Tarkowski at £40m, with Leicester City interested following the sale of Harry Maguire to Manchester United. A deal with either club would be unlikely, as Burnley wouldn’t be able to find a replacement.
Nathan Ake – Bournemouth
Another Premier League defender that has raised his profile is 24-year-old Nathan Ake. Despite last season being Bournemouth’s most disappointing since promotion to the Premier League, Ake was one of their biggest positives.
Ake played every game in the last two Premier League campaigns, playing just under 7000 minutes. He has goals in his locker, scoring four times last season. Ake’s versatility and comfort holding the ball has been praised by fans and pundits, with many seeing him tipped for a big move in the near future. As Ake is capable of playing at left-back, it would solve the full-back conundrum rather than signing Kieran Tierney.
There’s a recurring theme with all three defenders mentioned. They’re all comfortable with the ball and have fantastic disciplinary records. Ake is no exception, with the Dutch international booked just three times last season.
One problem is his valuation. Bournemouth have slapped a £75m price tag to divert Leicester’s attention elsewhere, so Arsenal will find it difficult to match that.