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The real January transfer news and the signing of a new centre back

by Sir Hardly Anyone

The Metro on 26 August this year told us “Arsene Wenger is ready to green light a late exodus to raise funds for two massive January arrivals.”

Explaining who they thought would be leaving the club the paper said that Arsenal risked “losing a number of players before the window slams shut, with Kieran Gibbs closing in on a move to Watford, Shkodran Mustafi up for sale, Lucas Perez set to depart and Liverpool and Chelsea battling for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.”  I suppose two predictions (three if you include Lucas’ loan spell a “departure”) is exceptionally good for a newspaper so we ought to congratulate them.  Certainly some money was raised with the two sales that did take place.

But what the Metro (along with virtually every other newspaper’s reports) failed to mention was that Arsenal were heading into a situation in which they would have more than 25 players to register come 1 September, so some movement was needed, and was achieved.

However part two of the operation – the buying = was apparently running into trouble as The Telegraph reported at the same time that “Arsenal feel their top two targets – centre-back Virgil van Dijk and winger Thomas Lemar – will not become available in the next week. Instead, they believe it would be better to wait until January, or even next summer if necessary, when the deals become more feasible.”

That at least was a slightly more measured arrangement, although it did not deal with who in the 25 players on the list would be dropped to make room for one or both of these players.

The Telegraph then however hesitated in their prognostications saying Arsenal “have a long-standing interest in Van Dijk but feel they have enough cover in the position – courtesy of Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers, as well as Nacho Monreal and Kolasinac.”

It was a rare bit of writing – looking at who we already had rather than just saying “Arsenal are going to buy” which would then be followed up by an “Arsenal were too slow in the transfer market” type article.

Obviously Per is coming to the end of his reign, but Koscielny is seeking to extend his usefulness to the club by dropping out of internationals after this summer. Holding has looked a superb buy since he first arrived for around £3m, and in addition we have seen that in emergencies Elneny can put in a decent shift at centre back.

But it is with this last type of comment that we get problems.  The reply can be “if you think Elneny is a centre back then…” (you can fill in the rest yourself), but fails to take account of the central issue: you can’t bring in the very best players as stand bys, ready to step up in case of illness or injury.

The question is therefore, are any of our array of players who can play centre back wanting to leave, or coming to the end of their time at Arsenal because of their age?  Only Per as far as I can see, and with Holding progressing I am not sure we need to replace him.  But there are two players who are getting on a bit in footballing terms…

Monreal will be 32 by the end of this season, Koscielny is already 32, and only Mustafi is a stripling at 25 (26 in April).  So Monreal and Kos are entering a period where based on their knowledge and experience they are terrific, but pace is declining and there may be an increased risk of injury.

Certainly if someone utterly brilliant wants to come to Arsenal that would change things.  Iker San Vicente was mentioned  a lot but having turned down Osasuna’s offer of a new contract he went to Barcelona.  The Mirror ran a lot of stuff saying Arsenal and Chelsea were on red alert, but the deal was seemingly already in place.

The Daily Star did announce a “DONE DEAL: Arsenal FINALLY announce signing of new centre-back” and that was 17-year-old George Dobson.

Other suggestions for a centre back have included Kostas Manolas’ of whom it was said that his Roma future, “has looked in doubt at various points this summer, with links to both Chelsea and Zenit Saint Petersburg.”  He’s still with Roma.

Kalidou Koulibaly who has been very good for Napoli who seem naturally keen to hold on to him.  Elsewhere Jose Gimenez of Atletico Madrid has long been regarded as one of the best young centre-backs in the game. And Barcelona and Manchester City were tipped to sign Ingio Martinez last summer from Real Sociedad but nothing happened.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all were reported to be interested in Paris Saint-Germain’s Presenel Kimpembe, but again, nothing happened.  (Difficult business this transfer prediction lark).

But all of these players would expect to become a regular in the team from the off, so who would we drop from the Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal line up?  Obviously if you think one of them should drop out, and that Holding is not going to be ready for regular action any time soon, then yes, one of these transfers makes sense.

However it is also possible to consider bringing in a second young centre back and start giving him games to give Kos or Monreal an occasional rest – but only if Holding isn’t considered ready yet.   But then we’d still have to drop someone from the 25.

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4 comments to The real January transfer news and the signing of a new centre back

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    We are well served with young Centre Backs. In the first team squad are Chambers and Holding who are(I think) both 22. Behind them are Bielik, Pleguzuelo and Sheaf who are filling the CB slots at U23 level and there are even some promising players at U18 level for s change.

    The potential gap is at Mustafi’s age someone with that extra two or three years experience as ready to take over from Kos/Monreal now.

    On balance unless someone unexpectedly becomes available the chances of an incoming Centre Back are as near zero as makes no difference.

  • insideright

    Given that over a number of years the evidence is that Wenger has sought to make centre-backs from defensive midfielders buying an out and out defender seems unlikely. The move to playing three at the back puts even greater emphasis on having players with more of a midfielders skills.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Do Arsenal need 2 new top quality finish article centre-backs after Koscielny was twice taken to the cleaners by Paul Pogba who out muscled him man to man to cause 2 of the 3 goals scored by Man Utd during last Saturday’s Premier League big game encounter at the Emirates Stadium? Is Koscielny aging and to thus stop being the top quality cenreback he used to be for Arsenal? And has the injury prone Mustafi who has appeared to become perennially injured after playing a couple of PL games for Arsenal and who couldn’t stop Jesse Lingard from scoring against Arsenal in that last Saturday’s big PL match necessitating another top class centreback signing by Arsenal in the next January window? And is that Virgil van Dijk still the same top quality centreback after his coming back from the sideline who Arsenal were rumoured had wanted to sign? And is Thomas Lemar still the same top quality Lemar Arsenal wanted to crazily fuck out £92m for, but bullet missing hitting them?

    Going into their last Europa League Cup group stage match at the Ems tonight, will the Arsenal team II who after playing a draw game against Grveda Zvezda at the Ems and lost to FC Klon at away consecutively in the competition wake up from their slumbers to massacre BATE Borisov tonight at the Ems despite the fact that Arsenal have qualified for the knockout stage of the competition already but for the ego and the fun have no need to massacre BATE who could pull haywire against Arsenal in the game hoping to surprisingly go through ?

  • Last season I clamoured for two beasts to be signed… one CB, at least 6’3″…and a DM, a real toughie (a Victor Wayama is okay) …once we got Lacazette I was assured we were quite okay in attack, provided we didn’t lose Sanchez or Ozil. But surprisingly we went after Lemar all summer and rumours of Mbape all over the place.

    In the end we ended up not strengthening. Monreal, though very intelligent, is no CB. He’s being overstretched to perpetually confront taller and stronger strikers. And to make matters worse, neither Koscielny nor Mustaffi is significantly taller. Those three overstretch to mark bulls like Lukaku, Pogba. Luckily Ibrahimovic didn’t come on.

    With a monster of an experienced CB and another as DM… The CB playing with Kos and Musti either side of him and the CB partnering with Xzakha and Ramsey slotting into the Ozil role…we can sell both Sanchez and Ozil this January without bothering to replace them.

    Give Iwobi regular starts and we won’t .bother much about present Sanchez.

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