£40m centre back could be the perfect fit for Unai Emery – opinion
The new Premier League season is fast approaching Arsenal and most sports betting tips are suggesting that the Gunners do not have what it takes to mount a serious title bid – Arsenal are priced at 41/1 with many places to lift the title at the end of the season and, I am sure we all agree, it is unlikely.
Unai Emery has recently expressed his interest in adding a centre back and a winger before the close of the transfer window. The winger situation seems to have been sorted with the signing of Lille winger Nicolas Pepe, who is currently in London for his medical (according to David Ornstein).
It leaves the club with one main focus, and this has been glaringly obvious for the best part of two years, sorting out the defence. The Gunners have most recently been linked with Juventus defender Daniele Rugani on a loan deal, however, I think this £40m defender could be a suitable option to further supplement the Arsenal defence.
A further caveat to a pair of centre back incomings at the Emirates is that Laurent Koscielny seems to be finally on his way out, and rumours surrounding an exit for Shkodran Mustafi are growing over the past few days.
The French national team are probably sorted for top quality centre backs for the next ten years at least, with countless young defenders being located across Europe. One of these is 20-year-old Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig, who has been extensively scouted by the Gunners as recently as February.
The former Sochaux defender has seen a somewhat quick rise to prominence in the past couple of years as part of a pair of young French defenders at RB Leipzig. Being paired with fellow French youth centre back Dayot Upemacano, Konate has cemented himself as one of the best prospects in Europe.
Since joining the German outfit from Sochaux on a free transfer in 2017, he has seen a gradual move into being a regular for the Bundesliga outfit. Making 50 appearances over two seasons for a title-challenging side is a signal of the quality that the youngster has.
For a 20-year-old defender, averaging 1.6 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game is some incredible defensive statistics, especially for someone who could develop even further over the next 12 years or so.
At 6ft 2 Konate is also more than physically capable of competing in the air, and this is backed up by the fact that he wins an average of 3.7 of his 5.3 aerial duels per game.
Konate also suits the remit for Arsenal’s recent signings, of being exciting prospects for the future. However what contrasts the Frenchman from a number of the club’s signings is the fact he has extensive experience at a top-level, something Matteo Guendouzi or Gabriel Martinelli do not possess.
Arsenal have already signed one young French centre back this summer in William Saliba, but they have loaned him back to Saint Etienne for a year to continue his development. A £40m move for Konate would see him walk straight into Arsenal’s backline immediately and would improve on the defensive woes of last season.
If Arsenal can fix their defensive issues, then the sports betting outlook of 2.5/1 to finish in the Premier League top four is a very realistic aim. But, they need to move quickly.