The defensive problems at Arsenal

Gunners fan Callum Brown assesses the challenge Mikel Arteta faces in the summer.

Defensive errors. Something Arsenal fans, like myself, have been seeing all season. The recent David Luiz display against Manchester City in the Premier League was a reminder that although Mikel Arteta has undoubtable coaching skills, it will be difficult to coach Luiz and others into eradicating these errors because concentration and composure is seemingly uncoachable. Arteta has started his managerial career brilliantly, if given time and money it is likely that he can lead the club back into the Champions League and further down the line, challenge for a title. (In three-five years’ time. Hopefully!)

An injection of money is a must and after the win against Liverpool, Arteta said he had “big concerns” over transfer funds for the summer. It is likely that he will have to offload first-team players in order to generate funds to secure his transfer targets with Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Sokratis among those reportedly on the move this summer. It will be sad to see Torreira leave having had such a strong first season for the club and it is a shame he wants a return to Italy. Guendouzi has great potential but Arteta doesn’t seem to like his attitude. Arteta’s ruthlessness is refreshing, however, it is frustrating losing another young player with great potential, like with Donyell Malen and Serge Gnabry in recent years.

David Luiz has reportedly cost the club £24 million and although his experience can be useful in the changing room, one may find it difficult to understand how he was allowed to sign a contract extension especially because Arteta is unsure on how much money he will have to spend in the summer. The money spent on Luiz’s contract could have gone towards rewarding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a high lucrative deal to stay at the club.

Cedric Soares signing a four-year deal also surprised the fanbase, an attack-minded full-back who has never been a stand-out performer for Southampton, being given a contract until he is 33 years old. He could be a good short-term fix to compete with Hector Bellerin but four years seems a lot, again given the club’s restricted transfer budget. 

Signing Kieran Tierney looks to be a great bit of business, with the Scotsman settling well into England after a rocky start. William Saliba’s impressive discipline and composure could bring a calming presence to the defence, and his strength in the tackle looks to be encouraging for Arsenal fans. He looks suitably ready for the Premier League. 

Who to partner Saliba, though? Arsenal currently have seven first team centre-backs on their books and it looks likely that Calum Chambers could follow Sokratis out of the club. Chambers, as well as Rob Holding, would ideally be sent out on loan to gain some much needed minutes, however with Chambers having already had loan spells at Fulham and Middlesbrough, Arteta may look to sell him to free up some funds. 

That could potentially leave Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari, David Luiz and William Saliba fighting for the centre-back position, and one more centre-back would be needed. The club have recently been linked with Dayot Upamecano and he would be a welcome addition the squad. His fee could be a problem but the thought of him and Saliba partnering next season seems exciting. Although both are inexperienced, they both play with a calmness and would develop a brilliant partnership for the future. Ideally Arsenal need a defender who can be their Virgil Van Dijk, even after his rare mistake against Arsenal the other day. His reliability creates a calmness in the defence and this is something many teams are looking for.

Others linked have included Caglar Soyuncu, but he looks unlikely to leave with Leicester in a position to play Champions League football next season, although that could change. A more interesting choice could be Dedryck Boyata who Arsenal have been linked with in the past. The Belgium international has experience and looks reliable. He could be a cheaper option for Arteta, making 2.3 interceptions per game as well as only having 0.1 unsuccessful touches per game meaning he rarely loses the ball after touching it. 

The defensive midfield position has also been a concern since Gilberto Silva left the club. Number one target Thomas Partey would brilliant due to his defensive ability and discipline to hold his position in front of the defence to help prevent counter attacks. This would give the side greater balance and allow our attacking players to play with more freedom, meaning that he would benefit us on both ends of the pitch. 

The dream of signing Partey might be ambitious but Arsenal have the potential to be a much better side next season if he were to join. It might be unrealistic to think that the club can challenge for the top four next season – although there’s a chance – and even if not, Mikel Arteta will surely have improved the side, working towards getting Arsenal back to where they belong.

Posted by Callum Brown

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