At long last, Arsenal have completed a deal to sign Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle. That acquisition plus a significant gap in the squad. There has been an admirable urgency about the way the Gunners have done their business this summer: They needed a forward, so they went out and got one in the shape of Alexis Sanchez. Bacary Sagna vacated a slot at right-back, so Debuchy was swiftly recruited.
That’s a far cry from previous transfer windows, when Arsenal have been left scrabbling around on deadline day looking to patch up their squad. This time, they have seemed determined to act quickly and decisively. What’s more, they now have the financial muscle to force deals through when required.
However, their work is far from done. Having received plenty of plaudits for signing Sanchez and Debuchy, Arsenal cannot afford to rest on those laurels. The recruitment drive must continue. They still require a holding midfielder to offer a long-term replacement for Mikel Arteta, and there is also a nagging need for a centre-half.
It’s strange that there have been so few rumours about potential centre-back signings. It’s arguably the area of the outfield squad in which Arsenal have the least depth. At present, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen are the club’s only senior central defenders. Sagna was also able to provide cover there, but he has now moved on.
This weekend, the club kick off their pre-season schedule with none of those players having returned to training. Arsenal’s defence will be hugely inexperienced. That in itself is not a huge problem, but when the start of the season rolls around, they will surely require more options.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Vermaelen could well leave the club. The Belgian has been relegated to the substitutes' bench as Mertesacker and Koscielny have established themselves as Arsene Wenger’s preferred partnership. He will understandably be keen for regular first-team football, and with just a year left on his contract, Wenger might see this as the last opportunity to cash in.
One solution could be a part-exchange deal with Manchester United, who want to add Vermaelen to their squad for next season. According to Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph, Wenger is keen to insist that a United player moves in the opposite direction in any deal:
Arsenal have no particular financial incentive to sell their captain and are well aware that, with Bacary Sagna having moved to Manchester City, they are already short of back-up in the centre-back position.
Their preference would be to get players as well as cash from Manchester United for Vermaelen. That would clearly depend upon Louis van Gaal’s attitude and it is unclear which Manchester United players Arsene Wenger would like. Wenger did previously bid for Chris Smalling prior to his move from Fulham to Manchester United.
Bringing Smalling in would even out the numbers, but would still leave Arsenal with just three centre-backs. They got away with that last season, but given their infamous luck with injuries, that feels unlikely to happen again.
With Debuchy done, Wenger must now turn his attention to the centre of his defence. It would be such a shame for all the good work in the transfer market to be undone by failing to bring in that necessary centre-half.
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