Arsenal: Five Transfers That Could End Their Defensive Woes
When the season comes to an end, Arsenal will only have themselves to blame for their lack of success. While it is true that the Gunners have been plagued by injury all season, their defence has cost them dearly; the mix up between Koscielny and Szczęsny in the League Cup final will be remembered for years to come.
Next season, Arsenal have the return of Vermaelen to look forward to; the Belgian was an imperious presence in the Gunner's back last season, netting seven goals in 36 appearances, but it would be a mistake to assume that his return will be enough to ease their frailties.
Vermaelen, despite being a tall, commanding and physical centre back is prone to finding himself out of position; mostly because of his desire to get forward. This however should not be driven out of his game, instead it is essential that Arsenal sign a deep lying, sweeper like centre back to partner him in front of Szczęsny- or dare I say it, Stekelenburg?
Although Johan Djourou has proven himself to be an able centre back—certainly good enough to remain at the Gunners—he is a little injury prone. Koscielny and Squillici are not good enough backup options. Arsenal's goal keeping crisis has been well documented, but any keeper, nor matter how good they are, would have their work cut out for them with the two French centre halves playing in front of them.
Arsenal needs at least one quality centre back to ease their defensive woes.
This is a short list of potential transfer prospects that Wenger may be able to lure to the Emirates.
The twenty five year old Centre Back has recently completed his first 90 minutes in an England shirt and has been a pillar of Bolton's impressive Premier League campaign to date.
Cahill has started 28 of Bolton's 30 league matches this season, scoring three goals, earning five yellow cards and a single red. Not a bad discipline record by anyone's standards; indeed Ashley Young, Fernando Torres and Kieran Richardson have surprisingly amassed more bookings. In comparison Koscielny has earned two red cards and six yellows, despite playing in five less games.
The Bolton star has also only committed 31 fouls to date- a little more than a single foul per game and twenty less than Fernando Torres' tally. Such statistics would make him a reliable figure in the Arsenal back four.
The 2008- 09 player of the year for Bolton is a rock in defence, capable of consistently executing well timed tackles, winning headers and out muscling strikers for the ball. His ability has seen him leap frog Ryan Shawcross for a place in the England line up and has seen him attract interest from Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.
He is also capable of scoring goals, having scored 11 so far for Bolton in 103 appearances; many of them from corners.
It seems likely that Cahill will leave the Reebok Stadium sooner rather than later; manager Owen Coyle seems resigned to losing him by stating that 'When it comes (a transfer offer,) all good and well, because he will have got his move on the back of his performances for Bolton.'
The Scot added that Gary is a quality defender.
Although Cahill is a very realistic target for the Gunner's his price tag will not be cheap. With interest from other leading teams Wenger could find himself engulfed in a bidding war and may not be able to compete with the wealth of Chelsea. The fact that Cahill is an England international playing for a Premier League club will further inflate his price tag.
Vertonghen is tall, versatile, young and experienced at playing European football. He has long been touted as a potential Gunner and given his relationship with Vermaelen he could easily fit into Arsenal's squad. Many fans will be surprised to hear however that he has never partnered Vermaelen in central defence despite playing together a number of times.
The twenty three year old Belgian has a keen eye for goal having scored 22 times in 112 appearances for Ajax and is capable of providing cover on the left wing when required. His creativity on the ball and natural flair makes him more suited to Arsenal than any other Premier League team.
It is well documented that Vertonghen is craving a move to the Premier League, in an interview with goal.com he revealed last summer that he wanted this season to be his last in the Eredivisie." I am ambitious. I want to play in the Premier League. The Premier League is my favourite competition but I need one more year before I am ready."
Although the Belgians desire to win the Dutch League looks set to go unfulfilled this season, now is the time for him to move.
Vertonghen would be a great signing for Arsenal but he is perhaps not the centre back they need; he is more suited to playing a defensive midfield role- a position that is well covered by the likes of Wilshere and Alex Song. Indeed most of his caps for Belgium have been in this position. He would however be a supreme utility player, specialising as a centre back.
Mertesacker's contract expires in summer 2012 and Werder Bremen's financial problems are well known to the football community. It seems likely that the German international will leave at the end of the season for a fee that could be as little as £6 million.
At 26 Mertesacker would be a fine addition to the Arsenal back four. He knows his game and has collected a wealth of international caps for Germany; including two semi final appearances at the World Cup and a game in the Euro 2008 final.
At 6ft 6 the German would give the Gunners some much needed height in their back four. His efficient style of play and consistent string of dominant performances should eradicate the mistakes that have cropped up all too frequently in the past few seasons. He would be a fine partner for Vermaelen and a great leader for Squillici and Djorou.
Like many of the other players on the list Mertesacker's talent is well known; Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are all rumoured to be interested in the Hannoverian. His physical traits however could make him the ideal man to fill the defensive void for Arsenal.
Reports suggest that Mexès has long been on Wenger's radar but for one reason or another the French centre back is yet to wear the colours of Arsenal. The twenty nine year old will be a free agent in the summer and would be an absolute steal if Wenger could pull the transfer off.
As a youngster Mexès was tipped to be one of the world's best centre backs however his career hasn't sky rocketed in the way many pundits expected it would. That being said, he would be a fine addition to Arsenal's back four; he is capable of playing an aggressive, physical game which Arsenal currently lack. Furthermore he is well organised and strong in the air; everything Wenger needs to bolster his defence.
In addition he has Champions League experience and is familiar with the pressure of playing for one of the biggest clubs in European football. This combined with his experience with playing alongside the likes of Totti should mean he will be easily able to adapt to the English game.
Recent reports suggest that Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is interested in the French international which could see Wenger become involved in a contract bidding war he cannot win; Liverpool's new owners clearly boast more financial power. That being said, if Mexès was to move for footballing reasons, the Emirates would be the obvious choice.
Despite the interest, and being out of contract in the summer, the capture of Mexès may be difficult and out of reach for both English clubs. The Frenchman has recently stated that he wants to stay in the Serie A for as long as he can. He added "I have settled well in Italy... I know the league quite well and do not want to move away."
Mexès' departure looks imminent but a move to AC Milan or Napoli could be more likely.
Sakho is young, physical and full of flair. A long time target for Arsenal's scouts the Paris St. Germaine centre back would be a near perfect addition to the Arsenal squad.
Sakho has made 93 appearances for Paris St. Germaine, scoring four goals and collecting the Coupe de la Ligue in 2008 and 2010. His imperious form has already seen him earn two caps for the France national team, making his debut against England in November 2010.
He is well known for his energy and has become an iconic player for PSG since he made his full debut in 2007. Despite being a passionate PSG fan one has to assume that his ability far exceeds the French league; sooner or later he will be a Premier League, or La Liga, player. A player of his ability needs to play Champions League football.
His style of play and clear talent have led many to conclude that he is a similar type of player to French legend Lilian Thuram. He is a tireless engine in the PSG defence; hard working, a strong tackler and a tactical knowledge of the game far beyond his years.
He is also a natural leader, something Arsenal seem to be lacking in their squad at the moment. Indeed he captained PSG at the age of 17 and, all the more remarkably, on his debut. If he was to sign sooner or later he could be a long term captain for Arsenal, providing the squad with much needed consistency while it continues to evolve and progress.
In January rumours were widespread that the Frenchman, of Senegalese descent, was set to sign for Arsenal in the summer for a fee of about £12 million. The fact that Sakho was refusing to pen a new deal added to speculation but the news of him signing a new three and a half year deal in early March is sure to have struck a bitter blow for Wenger. He may be out of reach, for the next transfer window at least.
In Conclusion: Wenger Has Some Thing to Do
In Koscielny and Squillici Wenger has failed to sign quality repalcements for the outward bound William Galls, Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre. Many Arsenal fans seem keen to see the back of the error prone French duo before they make more costly mistakes.
It is well known that Wenger is reluctant to spend big but with the departures of Almunia, Bentdner and Denilson seemingly imminent perhaps some of the profits could go towards one of these five defenders. It is essential. Arsenal have a strong midfield, perhaps the best in the Premier League, and in Van Persie and Chamakh they have an adequate strike force. Their central defence in comparison leaves a lot to be desired.
If there is no money available perhaps Wenger should turn to young talents Kyle Bartley and Ignasi Miquel; two players who have impressed in Arsenal's reserves. Lets not forget however that it is Wenger's faith in youth that has cost the Gunners dear in the past few seasons.
Who would Gunners fans like to see Wenger turn towards?