Arsenal Transfer News: Chris Smalling Purchase Would Be Step in Wrong Direction

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

Manchester United's Chris Smalling applauds supporters after his team's 2-0 win against Swansea City in their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super

In an odd twist of circumstances, Arsenal are reportedly in the hunt to cut a £13 million deal for Manchester United defender Chris Smalling this summer.

Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star writes that Arsene Wenger has shown a liking to the England international since before he moved to Old Trafford from Fulham in 2010, but the Frenchman shouldn't listen to his gut in this instance.

Alastair Grant

There are numerous red flags surrounding Smalling's situation and a potential transfer to the Emirates Stadium, the most pivotal of which are performance-based.

At present, Wenger has a number of defensive areas in need of recruitment. Bacary Sagna still hasn't signed a new deal in North London and could leave the club with a right-back void to fill in the summer, while Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker need backup in central defence superior to that of Thomas Vermaelen.

Following the 5-1 loss to Liverpool in February, Wenger was quoted by the Daily Star's Jack Wilson as being all too aware of the defensive frailties currently in his squad:

It was a very poor day. We were poor defensively, offensively. Liverpool played very well, so congratulations to them. But it was a poor performance on a day when we couldn't afford it.

Of course it raises some questions today because we were caught many times and were naive. Defensively we need to be more stable. We were too open. From the front to the back we were not at the level we are used to.

The Gunners' fall from title challengers to top-four hopefuls in the latter end of this campaign has been disappointing, but that's no reason for the club to shrink in terms of the transfer expectations they would have held should they have been crowned champions.

Indeed, Arsenal should instead aim for the cream of the crop, Europe's elite, in order to move on from this disappointment and ensure the same isn't replicated in future. Cream of the crop, Smalling certainly is not.

At United, Smalling is cover at best; one of Sir Alex Ferguson's remaining experiments in attempting to soften the blows of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic exiting the club which perhaps hasn't gone to plan.

Granted, the 24-year-old is establishing himself as an England international, but were it not for his ability to sometimes fill in at right-back as well as centre-back, even that hunt career would not have been so fruitful. As Opta's Tim Simon pointed out during the 2-0 defeat to Everton over the weekend, Smalling can barely fulfil those duties at times:

If Wenger were chasing Smalling as a prioritised Sagna replacement, it's the wrong move, and most certainly for £13 million in any case, where there will be better-value options to come.

Even then, though, paying out such a fee for a player who's not likely to truly challenge Koscielny or Mertesacker for a starting spot would be futile, especially considering Smalling isn't quite of the "upcoming starlet" category anymore; he needs to start delivering in a senior regard.

HULL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on April 20, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Then there's the disciplinary aspect which Wenger may not take too kindly to. Prior to United's fixture against West Ham earlier this season, a crocked Smalling was reported by Sky Sports to be in trouble for some after-hours antics in the streets of Manchester.

This came just two months after the defender decided to turn up for a January fancy-dress party in full suicide-bomber attire, per the Daily Mail's John Hall. Wenger, a known disciplinarian both on the pitch and off, may not take so kindly to such behaviour.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Ross Barkley of Everton is fouled by Chris Smalling of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on April 20, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Al
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

On the whole, Smalling would be a sideways step for Arsenal at best, which is exactly the kind of transfer tact the North Londoners are trying to come away from.

Perhaps with increased squad prominence, Smalling would get the chance to develop momentum and improve with the pace that was once expected of him, but Arsenal shouldn't be the ones to take such a risk.