3 Young centre-backs Arsenal should target in the summer
Being celebrated for an outstanding characteristic on the football pitch cannot compensate for the fact that there's another area on the turf, where a side is plagued by a pointed paucity, and which significantly impedes their collective progress as a unit. The Emirates Stadium has been a vanguard when it comes to attacking, free-flowing football, providing box-office moments laced with enthralling emotion over the years.
However, what has held them back from mounting a serious tilt for major trophies is their fragility in defence. One of the most monotonous gripes around the Emirates has been the paucity of teak-like defensive solidity which functions without faltering when exposed to a high quality attack.
Naturally, the most prevalent demand from new manager Unai Emery was the establishment of a solid defensive structure which was able to hold its own in moments of adversity and provide a solid platform for endowed attackers to display their attacking proclivity and effectuate proceedings in the final third. The intent of instilling defensive solidity and a steeliness to the shield in front of the back four resonated in the nature of the signings Emery made in the summer.
Sokratis' imposing presence in the heart of defence coupled with Lucas Torreira's dogged determination and tenacity in breaking up menacing passages of play in its infancy and acting as a defensive screen have been instrumental in providing defensive solidity, but there still persists an element of hesitance and indecision in defence which makes Arsenal exploitable and easy to pick apart on the counter.
Laurent Koscielny's progressing years and a dodgy Achilles means he's not the leader he once was and Shkodran Mustafi's poor positioning and lack of anticipation often leads to impetuous lunges which are detrimental to the teams structure whilst defending attacks.
Konstantinos Mavropanos' time at the north London outfit has been plagued by injuries and even though he's considered a bright prospect, the Greek hasn't been able to rack up a substantial amount of game-time to stake a claim for a first-team spot.
The innate fecklessness of the individuals in your ranks shows up eventually, and tactics can only help when you've got the personnel to carry them out successfully.
As such, bringing in a young and promising centre-back through the doors at London Colney who can form a formidable partnership with the experienced Sokratis, and eventually take over as the leader of the defence after a few years should be Arsenal's topmost priority this summer.
Arsenal's insistence of sticking with a self-sustaining model acted as a hackamore and significantly limited their options in the transfer market last summer. With the arms race for securing elite talents becoming fiercer and preposterous every season, it's imperative that Stan Kroenke loosens the purse strings for Emery to help Arsenal get their targets and challenge for major trophies again next season.
Let's have a look at 3 young centre-backs Arsenal should seriously consider signing this summer.
#1 Nikola Milenkovic
You know there's something about a player that's alluring when he's continuously compared to Serbian legend Nemanja Vidic and seamlessly takes it all in his stride, without breaking a sweat and flourishing steadily. For Fiorentina's 21-year-old star Nikola Milenkovic, what all these comparisons bring are a crucial need to stay grounded and concentrate on becoming better everyday.
Milenkovic's modesty and poise are a testament to his mental maturity and the belief he possesses in his abilities, which place him in an elite bracket of players despite his tender age and primordial footballing career. He is adept at playing both as a right-back and a centre-back and his versatility will be hugely beneficial for Arsenal and Emery.
One of the most arresting traits about the Serbian is an almost unblemished sense of positioning which ensures he's at the right place, at the right time, thereby preventing forwards from attacking loose balls or affording them any sort of spatial advantage in the final third.
Milenkovic's tall and sturdy frame does not restrict his mobility and the Fiorentina defender is deceptively quick across the ground, with his pace aiding him in mopping up possession at the back and make crucial overlaps during his doubling-up act as a right-back for the Florence outfit.
Good agility, immaculate concentration and superb decision making which helps him come out on top in one-on-one duels. Milenkovic ensures that he faces the attacker sidewards, thereby maintaining the perfect distance between himself and the forward when isolated.This helps him force the aggressor outward towards the wing, allowing other defenders to track back and get back into their respective positions.
A proactive defender who doesn't shy away from pressing attackers and forces them back into their own half, Milenkovic is often seen making optimum use of his long legs to intercept passes which attackers wouldn't usually expect him to cut off.
Arsenal will face stiff competition from the likes of Atletico Madrid and Manchester United for the signature of the hugely talented Serbian, with the Los Rojiblancos and Red Devils known to be long-term admirers of the 21-year-old. As per reports, United even had a bid in excess of £50 million rejected by La Viola last summer.