5 Centre-backs Arsenal should look to sign
- A look at 5 centre-backs who could end Arsenal's long-standing defensive woes.
- All the said players are young and possess game styles that could benefit the Gunners.
Arsenal's defensive problems are worsening every season. The malaise began with Arsene Wenger's final few years at the club. Despite signing centre-halves every summer, the club has continued to struggle at the back.
When Unai Emery was appointed Arsenal's head coach, one of his first tasks was to fix the defence. After eighteen months in charge of the London club, it's fair to say the Spaniard only made things worse.
During Emery's managerial reign at Arsenal, the Gunners signed Sokratis Papasthatopoulos and David Luiz, two well-established centre backs in Europe. They also got hold of William Saliba, a young prospect from France, but not much changed in their defensive performances.
Despite showing signs of improvement under Mikel Arteta, Arsenal should sign at least a couple of centre-backs to have a realistic chance of returning to the top 4 next season. On that note, let us have a look at five centre-backs Arsenal should look to sign next summer.
Five centre-backs Arsenal should look to sign next summer:
#1: Dayot Upamecano
French defender Dayot Upamecano has been a mainstay at RB Leipzig since 2017. Upamecano is the type of defender who has the potential to transform the Arsenal defence. The tall left-footed centre-back is strong in tackling and positional play, and has the skill set required to excel in the Premier League
Upamecano is a modern centre-back who likes to play the ball from the defence. According to stats from Whoscored, the 22-year-old has played 21 games for Leipzig in Bundesliga this season. During these games, the Frenchman had a successful pass percentage of 90.5% which is way more than any of the Arsenal defenders have garnered this season.
The Leipzig centre-back wins 3.0 aerial duels ever match. Only Shkodran Mustafi has won more duels at Arsenal this season than Upamecano. With William Saliba set to join Arsenal at the end of this season, having Upamecano as his defensive partner could end the club's long-standing woes in defence.
Upamecano would be a marquee signing for Arsenal. Acquiring his signature would be a significant statement of intent from the Arsenal board.
Considering his age, Upamecano can be a mainstay in the heart of Arsenal's defence for many years.
However, there are concerns aplenty in bringing the Leipzig centre-half to the London club. Player interest, since Arsenal is unlikely to offer Champions League football next season, Leipzig's asking price and Arsenal's finances in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis could all be deterrents in this regard.
#2: Axel Disasi
Axel Disasi has played a crucial role in Reims' impressive Ligue 1 campaign this season where they finished sixth to qualify for the Europa League.
One of the main reasons for the Ligue 1 club's position in the Ligue 1 table has been their stout defence. Axel Disasi has excelled in this department, appearing in 27 games, playing 2430 minutes and also scoring a goal.
Disasi is a tall right-footed defender who is quick and good in tackling. He is proficient in the air as well, winning 2.8 aerial duels. Disasi has a pass percentage of 84.6% this season.
Considering his age, Arsenal should consider the 22-year-old as an option to partner Saliba in defence next season. The Frenchman can only get better under Arteta and possesses the potential to transform Arsenal's defence.
Disasi is young. But more important is the player's potential for development that Arsenal may perceive to be key.
Disasi has just one year remaining on his contract, with reports indicating that he is unlikely to sign a new deal at the French club.
It essentially means that the Ligue 1 side may be keen to jettison Disasi in the summer and Arsenal could do well to seize the opportunity should it present itself. According to transfermarkt, the Frenchman is valued at € 10 million.
#3: Mohammad Salisu
Real Valladiod's Mohammad Salisu one of the hottest young prospects in Europe.
Emerging from the Accra-based African Talent Football Academy, Salisu has made a good impression in his two years in Spain. He has the likes of Manchester United and other Premier League clubs closely monitoring and weighing up bids for him.
The Real Valladolid centre-back has a muscular physique, is excellent in the air, adept in interceptions and is a strong tackler of the ball.
The Ghanaian left-sided centre back has featured 27 times in Spain's top flight this season, scoring once against Eibar in October. According to Whoscored, Salisu wins 2.5 aerial duels per match and has a pass percentage of 80.5%.
The 21-year-old, who signed a new deal with Real Valladolid last May has a release clause of £10 million with the La Liga club. Salisu's skillset could be a good acquisition for Arsenal.
At 20 years of age, the sky is the limit for the talented centre-half. Salisu would improve under the able stewardship of Arteta and could play a crucial part in the Gunners defence should the club sign him. Considering his price, Salisu would be a bargain signing.
#4: Issa Diop
Issa Diop, West Ham United’s French centre-back, arrived in east London a little over a year ago.
Having already captained his hometown club, Toulouse, while still a teenager, Diop has proved his worth in the Premier League and has been the defensive mainstay of the struggling London club.
Diop has featured 23 times for West Ham in the EPL this season, playing 1956 minutes. The right-footed centre-back is a very physical player, is strong in the air and is a strong tackler of the ball, although his ball possession seems to be a work in progress.
He wins 2.7 aerial duels per match and registers a pass percentage of 78.8%. Diop could fill the gap left by Laurent Koscielny, both as a defender and as a captain.
Valued at £ 30 million by transfermarkt, his price may go down if West Ham get relegated to the Championship. Arsenal should consider Diop as an option to bolster their defence.
Signing Diop would be a massive upgrade to Arsenal's defence.
He is a proven player in the Premier League and is a leader at the back. Diop was called a ‘monster’ by Jose Mourinho last season, and it’s this sort of praise that has seen him linked to several top clubs.
#5: Pablo Mari
Pablo Mari came through the youth ranks at Mallorca, before making the switch to Gimnastic in 2013. After spending three years at the club, the centre-back joined Manchester City where he stayed for three years despite never making a first-team appearance.
Instead, Mari was loaned out to Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna before joining Brazilian club Flamengo permanently last summer. Having impressed in Brazil during a short time, Pablo Mari joined Arsenal on loan in January, with the club retaining the option of making the deal permanent.
The 26-year-old played just two games for the Gunners before the season was indefinitely suspended owing to the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite his limited game-time, Mari gave a good account of himself. He was good on the ball, as is evidenced by his pass percentage of 88%. Mari won 2.6 aerial duels per game.
Pablo Mari is entering his peak years. The Spanish centre-back played some of his finest football last year with Flamengo, helping them to the Copa Libertadores and Brazilian Serie A titles. Someone with that kind of experience would be a handy option for Mikel Arteta to call upon.
Arsenal require defensive reinforcements given their current plight. Mari may not have played a lot since joining the London club. But he has shown his quality during his time at Flamengo.
To add depth to their central defensive ranks, signing Mari permanently would be the right move for Arsenal. Mari would be a steal at a price anything below £ 10 million.