Arsenal’s impressive 22-game unbeaten run was snapped at Southampton over the weekend. The Saints ran out 3-2 winners in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first game in charge. The Gunners turned in an insipid display on the south coast and were deservedly punished.
The defeat also came at a cost for the Gunners. Bellerin limped off at half-time whereas Lichtsteiner too picked up a knock towards the end of the game. The injuries to the pair add to an already populated treatment table consisting of the likes of Kolasinac, Mustafi and Holding. Moreover, the likes of Monreal and Koscielny have just returned to fitness.
The games are going to come thick and fast over the festive period and Arsenal might just find themselves short in the defensive third. Though they won’t be able to bring in any reinforcements before the year ends, they could certainly look at a few options that would solve their short-term problem while also providing a sound option in the long run.
Through the lens of this article, we would look at three defenders who could be the answer to Arsenal’s defensive conundrum.
#3. Kostas Manolas (AS Roma)
The Greek defender was once courted by the Gunners during his time at Olympiacos. According to some reports, Manolas was tantalisingly close to a medical with Arsenal yet the deal never materialised. However, the Greek found himself packing his bags for Rome the same summer.
After his arrival in the Eternal City, Manolas has been a rock at the back for Roma. Blessed with immense strength and aerial ability, the Greek rarely gets out-muscled. Additionally, his trait of getting on the end of crosses, both offensive and defensive, have made him an indispensable commodity at Roma.
The Gunners currently find themselves left with only three recognised centre backs in Koscielny, Mustafi and Sokratis. However, the poor injury record of Koscielny and Mustafi means that Arsenal might just have to shore up their defence in order to maintain their charge for the top four.
The centre-back signed a four-year deal in December 2017. However, if the opportunity to play alongside Sokratis in the Premier League pops up, he could be tempted to make the move to North London.
Though Manolas won’t come cheap, he has displayed his fantastic abilities regularly to warrant the huge transfer fee.
At 27 years of age, he is entering the peak years of his career and Arsenal should go all out to ensure that those take place at the Emirates.
#2. Medhi Benatia (Juventus)
Benatia shot to prominence in the 2013-14 season with Roma. However, he hasn’t been able to fulfil his vast potential since.
After stellar performances at Roma, he moved to Bayern Munich to take the next step up the ladder. However, he couldn’t really be the authoritative figure the Bavarians craved. Subsequently, he returned to the Serie A in 2016 with the Old Lady.
At Juventus, the Moroccan has found playing time hard to come by. While injuries have played their part, the Old Lady’s embarrassment of riches defensively has meant that Benatia has warmed the bench more often than not.
Even this term, he has made a grand total of five league appearances, thus, making him a perfect example of a criminally underused player. With the Moroccan unsettled, Arsenal could take advantage.
At 31 years of age, Benatia would want to be playing wherever he finds himself. An accomplished passer of the ball and strong in the challenge, the Moroccan would be a perfect fit for Emery’s Arsenal.
With Koscielny highly susceptible to injuries and Mustafi extremely error-prone, the arrival of Benatia would lend solidity to a defence that has leaked far too many goals this season.
Benatia would come significantly cheaper than Manolas and would represent a shorter fix. However, the Gunners are stretched to their limits defensively. Thus, a winter move for the Moroccan would make a lot of sense.
Now it is up to the Arsenal hierarchy to push the deal through.
#1. Milan Skriniar (Inter Milan)
The Slovakian has been one of the most underrated defenders in the world over the past couple of seasons. Plying his trade at Inter Milan, Skriniar has put in numerous commanding displays.
An elegant passer of the ball, the Slovakian has all the attributes required of a top-drawer centre-back. Skriniar boasts of excellent concentration and hardly puts a foot wrong while his immaculate tackling helps him snuff out danger in the blink of an eye.
Though these attributes make him an invaluable player, the asset that could appeal most to the Gunners would be his adaptability. On occasions, the Slovakian has played as a right-back and with Arsenal short-handed defensively, his flexibility would solve several issues.
Moreover, he is a colossus at the back and is a real leader. Alongside the likes of Sokratis and Koscielny, Skriniar could form an efficient central defensive pairing that would set the foundation for Arsenal’s flair players to wreak havoc.
The Slovakian is just 23 years old. Hence, he would surely not come cheap. However, there have been murmurs recently regarding the wages being offered to him at Inter.
The time is right for the Gunners to make a move and bring Skriniar to the Emirates. With age on his side, Arsenal’s investment would surely promise a great return.
If the Gunners hope to seriously challenge England’s elite, they need a centre-back like Skriniar. Thus, they should pull out all the stops to acquire him when the market opens.