Why Ashley Williams Would Not Be a Great Signing for Arsenal

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2015

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If Arsenal are to bring in a new centre-back during the forthcoming transfer window, Swansea City’s Ashley Williams is not the man they should be targeting. Currently, the Gunners have better options available within the squad than the Wales international.

Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail linked Williams with Arsenal throughout last season. After another consistent campaign with the Swans, he may well have one eye on a move to a bigger club.

The view of must pundits is that Arsenal require strengthening throughout the spine of the team. Former Gunners midfielder Ray Parlour certainly thinks so, and he has identified central defence as an area where an upgrade would be welcome.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: "The centre-half position must be looked at as well; an old Tony Adams, if they could find someone like him, or a John Terry."

That’s easier said than done: Adams’ rugged performances made him an icon at Arsenal, while Terry is arguably the greatest British defender of his generation. Even the Arsenal fans who have no time for his personality must recognise his talent.

SWANSEA, WALES - FEBRUARY 21:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United (l) challenges Federico Fernandez (c) and Ashley Williams of Swansea (r) during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on February 21
Stu Forster/Getty Images

There is no evidence that Williams is at that level, and at almost, 31 he is unlikely to improve significantly between now and the end of his career.

In Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal already have a very strong first-choice centre-back pairing. The giant German and the speedy Frenchman complement each other very well, and they are one of the more effective partnerships in the Premier League. If a world-class upgrade on either player can be found, Arsene Wenger should go for it. However, Williams is not that man.

It’s easy to see why he might have caught Wenger’s eye: Playing in an attractive Swansea side, Williams has showcased a notable ability for distributing the ball from the back. According to Squawka, he has completed 85 per cent of his attempted passes this season. That means he’s as successful in possession as compatriot Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

SWANSEA, WALES - JANUARY 17:  Chelsea player Diego Costa and Ashley Williams of Swansea clash during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on January 17, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty
Stu Forster/Getty Images

However, outside of his ability on the ball, Williams has no particularly outstanding attributes. Rather than sign the Swansea skipper, Arsenal would be better advised to invest playing time in their signing from January 2015, Gabriel Paulista.

Although not quite as tidy in possession as Williams, Gabriel is much more effective in the challenge. Williams has won just 48 per cent of his duels, while Gabriel has emerged successful in a remarkable 73 per cent of his. That’s actually the highest ratio of any outfield player at Arsenal.

His success rate is in part influenced by the fact he’s yet to be tested against the toughest opposition, but it remains a hugely promising start to life in the Premier League. When you factor in that Gabriel is also significantly younger than Williams, it makes sense to stick with him over the Welshman.

In Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gabriel and Calum Chambers, Arsenal have a strong and balanced collection of centre-backs. It will take someone significantly more special than Williams to convince Wenger to break up that quartet.

All stats via Squawka

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here.