Arsenal do not need a complete overhaul by Paul
Fans seem to think Arsenal are going to sign pretty much every center back in football, with the consensus being that they are all better than the players Arsenal already have on the roster.
It would be shocking if Arsenal sign another center back. Let’s have a little reality check before Arsenal sign a “Partner for William Saliba”.
First of all, Arsenal do have Saliba returning from loan. He has not played a minute of Premier League football yet, so any fantasy that he is going to walk into the team as the starting center back is just that; a fantasy. Arteta, unlike Unai Emery, has shown he is smart, tough, and willing to make decisions that are unpopular with fans.
In addition to the defensive savior of the Gooner-verse, (Saliba) Arsenal have the just-signed Pablo Mari, who they can sign permanently for a reasonable fee over the summer. Mari played well in his few chances before the shut down.
David Luiz – He is not “one for the future” (how I hate that phrase) but he is a proven center back who offers a lot in terms of leadership, skill on the ball, aerial prowess, and tackling. He has been labelled as mistake prone, but every defender gets beaten; in fact most get beaten most of the time because the attacker always has the advantage in one on one situations – they already have the ball and know what they are going to do with it.
Shkodran Mustafi – He was the whipping boy and scape-goat for Emery’s defense, in much the same way Mesut Ozil was for the offense, but Emery was wrong aobut Ozil and he was wrong about Mustafi. Is Mustafi the second coming of Tony Adams? No. No one else is either. Mustafi is a good defender both one on one and as part of a tandem. He is decently paced for a center back, he is good with the ball, and he has proven he can play at a high level in the Premier League; something William Saliba and the multitude of proposed defensive saviors cannot claim.
Sokratis – He looks like the odd man out here. He has not been anything more than steady at best. He looked like a player signed to keep the press from screaming that the club was not addressing obvious shortcomings, but he did not improve the team compared to either Mustafi or either Chambers or Holding. He certainly did not replace Laurent Koscielny.
Speaking of Arsenal’s young defenders… Rob Holding was playing regularly and well when he got hurt. He was beginning to look every inch the every day player he was envisioned to be when Arsene Wenger signed him. Then he got hurt. It happens. Fans have the memories of sand fleas; but Arteta will probably give Holding a fair shot at proving his worth and it is entirely possible he will keep a roster spot for at least the next season or two.
Calum Chambers has a little bit of the curse of the versatile player in him. He’s been a center back, left back, and defensive midfielder. He too was playing well when he got injured. Again, it seems unlikely that he would be discarded out of hand given the quality of his performances at Fulham on loan the year before last and this past season for the Gunners prior to his injury.
With five proven Premier League center backs on the roster, a newly signed potential star, and another potential signing already in the fold, Arsenal have seven center backs either under contract or available to sign at their option. The idea that they are “in the market” for another center back seems… unlikely at best; unless a major star like Kalidou Koulibaly suddenly becomes available for free.
Personally, I find the idea that the Gunners need an “overhaul” to be just dead wrong. If Arsenal do make one or two signings, they look to have a team perfectly capable of competing for a top three finish.
(reserve goalkeeper – new signing)
Bellerin – Luiz – Mustafi – Kurzawa
(Soares/Chambers) – (Mari) – (Holding) – (Tierney/Saka)
DM ( Thomas Partey – New Signing) – Granit Xhaka
(Torreira) – (Maitland-Niles/Guendouzi)
Pepe – Ozil – Aubameyang
(Reiss-Nelson) – (Xhaka/Smith-Rowe) – (Saka)
For me the team needs a true defensive midfielder; someone with the athleticism, size, discipline, and willingness to play the position. A number of players fit the bill. Thomas Partey, Wilfried Ndidi, etc.
The team needs a reserve goalkeeper who is really capable of challenging Leno for the #1 jersey. Right now Arsenal, who have had real depth at the position for years, suddenly have one guy who is even close to game ready. Martin Dubravka would be nice, or Nick Pope.
If Smith-Rowe is not deemed ready to play in the first team, a back up/eventual replacement for Ozil would be a good idea.
Other than that, Arsenal do have a team, if they can stay healthy and on course, that can compete for trophies.