FanView: Why Arsenal Must Prioritise the Signing of a New Central Defender This Summer
In a revolutionised world full of substantial finances and record breaking transfers, the summer transfer window remains one of the most exciting aspects of the sport of football. As each week passes, numerous rumours sweep the headlines, capturing the attention of fans and allowing them to discuss the impact of said gossip.
However, whilst this period of the year maintains excitement amongst fans through the 'In The Know' journalists, these common emotions are quickly detached by the fans of Arsenal. For years, supporters of London’s biggest club have been forced to wait lengthy periods of time for their stingy board and out-of-touch manager to make the right transfers for the club before the official deadline concludes.
Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid trying to sign Nice centre back Malang Sarr. £36m release clause. 18-year-old also watched by Arsenal— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) July 21, 2017
Yet, it is these same fans who are forced to face punishment, as their patience is rarely rewarded. The last two summer markets have reflected this, with a lack of marquee signings playing a consequent, dismissive, impact towards the stagnation of a once highly-prominent football club.
The centre-forward role perfectly echoes this statement, as fans have been obligated to watch Olivier Giroud fail to reach the heights of world-class former player Robin van Persie for the last five years. Although Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez have been purchased by the
This summer, the London side have finally demonstrated remnants of change and ambition, thanks to the signings of Sead Kolasinac, who was voted in the Bundesliga Team of the Year, and Alexandre Lacazette, brought in for a club record fee.
However, whilst the completion of these transfers have decisively expressed elements of aspiration by a typically indifferent club, there is a long way to go until this summer can be branded a success.
Glancing at the Gunners' strongest lineup, components of weakness remain that need to be addressed quickly if the team stands any chance of attaining Premier League or European glory. While an appreciable number of fans would opt for the club to prioritise the signing of a new midfielder before the window slams shut, bringing in a new central defender could bring about far more positives.
When comparing the midfield and defence of the team, it is evident that the Gunners' midfield department is far stronger in comparison to the lacklustre defence. Regarding the midfield options, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey form a prominent partnership on the pitch whilst Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny are befitting backup options.
Extending on this, the side have a number of backup options if necessary, in the likes of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
With regards to the depth present in midfield, everyone can advocate that bringing in a promising talent can undoubtedly be favourable to the side. But what most fans fail to realise is that failing to sign a new central defender could be detrimental to the season. Despite currently having nine different options capable of playing as a defender, the overall quality of said players is not good enough.
To put this into perspective, the likes of Mathieu Debuchy and Gabriel are far from good enough to warrant a consistent role in the starting lineup, the ageing trio of Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, and Nacho Monreal could be unable to play out an entire season, and the likes of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding do not appear ready, yet, to cement a consistent role in the starting lineup.
In order to properly strengthen the Gunners' side ahead of the new season, bolstering the defensive options would be an important decision. Following a successful transition into a 3-4-2-1 formation earlier in the season, it would be fundamental to bring in a player capable of performing the libero role.
Regarding a formation that revolves around a back-three defence, the libero takes up the free role in defence and is tasked with initiating attacks from deep through long balls forward or by carrying the ball into midfield.
Formerly, both Mertesacker and Koscielny have performed this role to some success in the new formation, although there remains room for improvement. Regardless, bringing in a more experienced, and younger, defender to slot into this role could prove effective for the London club.
Albeit a seemingly extinct role on the pitch in recent times, there are a number of targets Arsenal could look to bring in to perform the role with simplicity. Players such as Kalidou Koulibaly, Davinson Sanchez and others could perform the role with triumph, but no player would be a better signing than Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk. Although having his heart set on a move to Liverpool, the club could try and convince the defender to change his ambitions to the north of London, in what would be a remarkable acquisition.
The 26-year-old has a variety of traits that would allow him to flourish as a libero in Arsenal’s current system, such as his composure in maintaining possession. This trait would be particularly beneficial under a manager like Arsene Wenger, taking into consideration the Frenchman has always aspired to deliver a possession-based style of play. Acquiring a player of van Dijk’s ability would help achieve this from the heart of the defence.
Also, the defender possesses an exemplary passing ability to evade defensive lines. By having the ability to make both short and long passes, the Dutchman is able to dictate play from deep and initiate attacks through his long balls, but also maintain possession through the use of shorter passes. This is supported by his impressive 84.6% pass success rate in all competitions last season.