Arsenal are less than a week into the new season, and—much like last season—the injury bug has already reared its ugly head.
Mikel Arteta had to leave the Champions League game against Besiktas with an ankle injury. Kieran Gibbs is out for three weeks with a hamstring injury. Laurent Koscielny has been battling minor knocks and probably wouldn't have played in Istanbul if Per Mertesacker were fit and available or if Arsenal had more depth at the position.
But they don't, which is exactly why signing a defender like Kostas Manolas would be so vital before the summer transfer window closes. And it looks as though they are very close to doing just that, per James Dickenson of the Express:
The Gunners have been linked with a £6million move for the Greece World Cup star after selling Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona for £15m. And Manolas is reportedly in England to complete the finer details of his switch to the Emirates.
However, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insisted last night that the club 'are not close to signing anybody.'
When asked specifically about Manolas, the Frenchman replied: '[There is] nothing special to add.'
Is there a phrase more common during the transfer window than "conflicting reports"? More than a few folks have been reporting that Manolas was in London over the weekend, however, including Graeme Bailey of Sky Sports:
Arsenal edging closer to finalising deal for Olympiakos defender Kostas Manolas - he was in London over the weekend.— Graeme Bailey (@GraemeBailey) August 19, 2014
Manolas would bring a lot to the Gunners. For starters, he would give the team four steady options at centre-back. He would also allow Arsenal to utilize Calum Chambers more often as Mathieu Debuchy's deputy at right-back or even allow Wenger to give Chambers a run as a defensive midfielder, a position where Arsenal lack bite.
He's also no stranger to Champions League football, starting seven times for Olympiakos in the tournament last year and absolutely sparkling, scoring two goals, averaging 2.4 tackles, 1.9 interceptions and 10 clearances per game and earning an average match rating of 7.42 from WhoScored.com.
In general, the biggest of stages shouldn't frighten him. He also started four matches for Greece in this summer's World Cup, averaging 2.3 tackles, an interception and six clearances per game in those contests, earning a 6.82 match rating from WhoScored.com in Brazil.
Yes, at Arsenal he would likely be the third-choice centre-back behind Mertesacker and Koscielny. But assuming Arsenal advance past the UCL playoff and into the group stage, they'll have that tournament, two domestic cups and the Premier League season to account for.
In other words, there will be plenty of chances for Manolas to make his mark. And he would certainly be expected to do just that, as the 23-year-old has developed into an excellent defender.
The Gunners have great depth in the attack and a slew of playmaking midfielders, but their depth in defense and in the defensive midfield—neither Arteta nor Mathieu Flamini is an elite option in the role—is troubling. Because the addition of Manolas would allow Wenger to experiment with Chambers in the midfield, the signing could potentially kill two birds with one stone.
And before Gooners go assuming that will indeed be the end of Arsenal's business this summer, consider this tweet from Wayne Veysey of Goal.com:
Told Arsenal are likely to try and push through a big deal (in addition to Manolas) if they qualify for CL group stages.— Wayne Veysey (@wayneveysey) August 19, 2014
Might it be a world-class striker? A tried-and-true defensive midfielder? A surprising addition few would have projected?
Ah, the transfer window, where the questions being asked are almost always more exciting than the answers that follow.
Manolas would be a great answer to a very pressing question Arsenal currently must be asking, however: Do the Gunners have enough depth to survive the rigors of a demanding season?
If the Greek centre-back were brought aboard, the answer would be a resounding "yes."