5 Full-Backs Arsenal Should Look at Signing This Summer
As the Premier League season nears its end, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will no doubt be casting one eye toward this summer's transfer window in the search for ways to strengthen his squad; one of these areas, hampered by long-running contract negotiations with current charge Bacary Sagna, will no doubt be full-back.
The most recent report on Sagna's contract, courtesy of the Daily Mail, suggests the Frenchman would demand a deal worth around £20 million to extend his stay at the north London club.
This would, reportedly, include a 50 percent wage increase from £60,000-a-week to £90,000-a-week, on a three-year deal: a demand which would surely jar with Wenger's long-standing age policy, with Sagna currently 31 years old.
Elsewhere, 24-year-old Englishman Kieran Gibbs, whilst performing admirably for portions of the season, can definitely be improved upon: the three-time England international is the club's worst defender in terms of duels won, with Squawka attributing the left-back with a rate of 45 percent.
With one eye on the future, here are five full-backs which Arsenal should look at signing this summer; three right-backs to succeed Sagna and two left-back options to potentially replace Gibbs.
Right-Back Option No. 1: Micah Richards (Manchester City)
Long-touted for a move away from the one-time Premier League champions, English right-back Micah Richards may finally be coming to the end of a 13-year stay with Manchester City.
Richards, despite his undeniable talents, has often found himself at odds with the myriad defensive signings brought into the club following their rise into wealth.
Adept at both full-back and centre-back, Richards has found his options limited by the imperious form of Pablo Zabaleta on the right flank in recent years; this season, natural-midfielder Javi Garcia and the much-maligned Martin Demichelis have both been preferred to Richards in the heart of defence.
With the defender having a year left on his contract at the end of this season, Marc Williams of the Independent recently reported that Richards has rejected an extension with the Manchester club in favour of regular first team football.
With a Sagna-shaped hole looking likely in the Arsenal defence come the end of the season, Richards could present Arsene Wenger with a ready-made and likely cut-price replacement; whilst his progress has stalled somewhat with his lack of appearances, at 25 years old Richards still has time to recapture his form under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
Right-Back Option No. 2: Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)
Turning attentions abroad, another option to replace Sagna at right-back would be Borussia Dortmund's defensive marauder Lukasz Piszczek.
Jamie Sanderson, of the Metro, reported earlier this month about the right-back's growing unease at the Bundesliga club's transfer policy, writing: "Piszczek is said to be growing frustrated with top players constantly departing Dortmund and a summer transfer is on the cards."
As per Squawka, in an injury-hampered season the Polish right-back has made fourteen league appearances so far for Dortmund, scoring one goal and achieving a 56 percent average of defensive duels won.
The 35-time international also boasts considerable Champions League experience, starting in last year's 2-1 final defeat to Bayern Munich.
According to Transfermarkt, Piszczek still has three years left on his contract so would require a sizeable fee to secure his services. However, as proven in recent years particularly with the sale of Mario Goetze to Munich, such is the financial model at Dortmund that every player has his price.
If Arsenal were looking for an experienced option to compensate for the loss of Sagna, they could do a lot worse than Dortmund's Piszczek.
Right-Back Option No. 3: Serge Aurier (Toulouse)
Toulouse right-back Serge Aurier is one of European football's hottest young properties following a series of impressive performances for the French club.
As per WhoScored.com, Aurier has made 26 league appearances so far this season for the Ligue 1 club, scoring five goals and making six assists: a healthy return for a full-back and an aspect of his game likely to interest Wenger.
Furthermore, WhoScored attributes 14 of Aurier's league appearances as being deployed in the centre of defence, suggesting a versatility which would prove invaluable in a stretched 2014-15 campaign. Projected predecessor Sagna has also played at centre-back this season as cover for the injured Laurent Koscielny.
At 21 years old Aurier is also a seven-time international for the Ivory Coast, and he is likely to be included in Sabri Lamouchi's squad for the 2014 World Cup.
Earlier this month, Zarif Rasul of the Daily Mirror reported on Arsenal's interest in the Ivorian and suggested the club could look to sign Aurier for around £6 million.
At that price or a more-likely increased fee, Aurier would represent great business for Arsenal in replacing a departing Sagna, with much room for development within Wenger's squad.
Left-Back Option No. 1: Ricardo Rodriguez (VfL Wolfsburg)
VfL Wolfsburg's Swiss left-back Ricardo Rodriguez is one of the most in-form full-backs in European football.
Since making his Bundesliga debut with the Saxon club in 2012, Rodriguez has made 67 league appearances, according to WhoScored, becoming an integral member of Dieter Hecking's first-team.
As per Squawka, Rodriguez has been particularly impressive for Wolfsburg this season. The Swiss international has created 49 chances, including five assists, and he has scored five goals in 26 league appearances.
The 21-year-old also boasts a 60 percent average of defensive duels won, winning 67 tackles, 74 headed duels and completing 78 percent of take-ons attempted.
Seemingly operating way below his station at Wolfsburg, Rodriguez may be looking for a move onto a higher stage at the end of this season, and Arsenal could prove an attractive option; the oft-frugal Wenger should not hesitate to break the bank for this talent.
Left-Back Option No. 2: Ben Davies (Swansea City)
Behind Southampton's much-vaunted talent Luke Shaw, Swansea City defender Ben Davies represents the most high-potential young left-back in the Premier League.
Since bursting into the first-team following injury to then-first choice Neil Taylor in 2012, Davies has established himself as a regular starter under both ex-manager Michael Laudrup and now interim-coach Garry Monk.
In February, Simon Jones of the Daily Mail reported on interest in Davies from many of Europe's top clubs, with Arsenal joining Manchester City, Liverpool, and Atletico Madrid.
One snag, as referred to by Jones, is that Davies recently signed a new long-term deal with the club; at the time the 20-year-old claimed:
It wasn’t a difficult decision and it’s always great to sign a new deal and commit my future to the club. This is a great place to learn and improve and it’s nice to be rewarded for all the effort I’ve put in. I think it’s the right place to be at in terms of my career, and if I’m playing regularly and I’m happy then that’s the main thing and all I can ask for.
A young player with a clear, refreshing outlook on the importance of regular first-team football, Davies would likely be filled with trepidation when considering a move away to a bigger club.
However, for Wenger, Davies would represent an improvement on current left-back option Gibbs whilst offering a similar level of Premier League experience.
As per Squawka, this season Davies has created 28 chances and scored two goals—including a well-taken volley at home to Arsenal—in 26 league appearances for the Welsh side.
If Wenger were to look closer to home for full-back options this summer, Swansea's Davies would be a safe bet.