Arsenal are in desperate need of depth at the centre-back position. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have established themselves as a world-class duo in central defence, but with the recent sale of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona, the Gunners are suddenly lacking senior experience at a critical position.
Olympiakos centre-back Kostas Manolas is undergoing a medical at Arsenal ahead of a move to the Gunners, Goal understands. Manolas has attracted interest from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who is targeting a central defensive signing before the transfer window closes following the sale of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona. As reported by Goal, the Gunners opened talks with Olympiakos over a move for the defender earlier in August.
Manolas would prove to be a critical signing for manager Arsene Wenger. He is young, he has Champions League and international experience, and he can be groomed for a future role with the club while Mertesacker and Koscielny hold down the fort.
Football journalist Sergi Dominguez likes the potential signing for Arsenal:
Manolas would be a very good signing for Arsenal. Admire him greatly - exciting prospect. Strong, offers optimal flexibility & he's.. Greek.— Sergi Domínguez (@FutbolSergi) August 18, 2014
Wenger made it known that he was aware of the club's needs earlier this month.
"If I can find another centre-back I will do it," he said, via the London Evening Standard's Charlie Eccleshare.
If Manolas doesn't join the club, Arsenal will find themselves relying heavily on 19-year-old Calum Chambers to spell the starting central defenders. The young Englishman is a capable young player, but the majority of his senior appearances with Southampton last season came at right-back.
He will take time to develop into a top-tier center-back, and Wenger would be risking the team's ability to compete in several different competitions if Chambers were to see an inordinate amount of playing time due to injuries elsewhere in the squad.
Indeed, Arsenal has already gone through an injury scare of sorts with Koscielny. The Mirror's John Cross reported on Sunday that Koscielny was having difficulty with a lingering Achilles-tendon issue.
However, the team's official Twitter account reported that Koscielny will be able to play in the crucial Champions League qualifier:
Manolas would certainly come in handy if this situation cropped up again. He won 62 percent of his duels and completed 79 percent of his passes in seven appearances in the 2013-14 Champions League, per Squawka.com. The numbers aren't stellar, but he does have experience at this level and should improve with better coaching at Arsenal.
Mertesacker also needs to be eased back into the squad after a long summer playing in the World Cup with the German national team. The lanky defender is already a step slow—although he often makes up for this with superb tactical awareness—and opposing teams could target his weary legs.
Manolas and Chambers would combine to make a potent rotation and could provide excellent cover in cup competitions, while also gaining valuable experience. It also frees up the likes of Nacho Monreal to focus on his natural, left-back position.
Finding cover at center-back takes precedence over Arsenal's other concerns. The squad lacks a truly strong holding midfielder, but this point becomes moot if the team has a leaky, inexperienced defense.
If the Manolas signing goes through, Wenger can likely hold out on finding another midfielder until the January transfer window, although the long-time Arsenal boss hasn't made much noise in that transfer period in recent years.