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Transfer speculation: Centre-backs Arsenal could target this January


Heading into the festive period, Arsenal are staring down the barrel of possible personnel crisis in their centre-back position. With injury taking out Rob Holding until next season, Koscielny just returning, Mavropanos out, Arsenal have two senior centre-backs available.

Of course, Koscielny can help but he is in the waning years of his career and Mustafi although he is young still, is inconsistent at best.

While a wing player would be a welcome addition to Arsenal this January it would seem that a centre-back has suddenly become the priority.

The question remains though, what kind of player do we bring in? Is it an old seasoned veteran who can act as a stop gap for the remainder of the year or do we look for a younger player who can grow alongside Rob Holding?

Holding it would seem is the CB star of the future for Emery. He has featured regularly before his injury becoming the one defender who seemed to appear in every match. With Sokratis in the later stages of his career and Kos not likely to come back after this year, it would seem that a younger CB would be in order. However, that may not be an easy task.

So, let’s look at both options. We’ve identified six players – a mix of young and old who could be potential targets. Some are harder to get than others but all might fit well into Emery’s system and ALL have the potential to help Arsenal.

Gary Cahill (current club – Chelsea)

Age:  32
Nationality: English
Height: 6’ 4”
Foot: Right
Value: €10,000,000

Cary Cahill during his time at Chelsea has become of their most successful players with two Premier League titles, a Champions League title, two FA Cups, a Europa League and FA Cup. It was capped off in the 2017/2018 season when he as permanently handed the Captain’s arm-band by Antonio Conte.

Unfortunately for him, he has not featured for Sarri at all. David Luiz and Andreas Christensen are his preferred pairing and it has pushed Cahill aside as Sarri’s style of play demands CBs who can play higher up the pitch.

He is an outstanding defender in the box. Made of the mould of the likes of the old school English defenders people love. His biggest weakness may be the one reason we don’t see him at Arsenal – he’s not the most technically astute with the ball.

But at 32 and with no playing time being offered AND with Chelsea opening the door to his departure, a loan for him for the remainder of the season might suit both teams. We’d get a player whom we could rotate and would give us another proven winner in an area that sorely needs a strong presence.  And he’d likely get time to play and prove to other teams that there is still something left.

Eric Bailly (current club Manchester United)

Age:  24
Nationality: Ivorian
Height: 6’ 2”
Foot: Right
Value: €30,000,000

According to ESPN’s Mark Ogden, in addition to Cahill, Eric Bailly is another potential target for Arsenal this January.

Bailly hasn’t featured much for Jose for whatever reason and he continues to languish away getting sporadic time when he can. This after bursting on the scene in 2016.

However, he is a player who has had to deal with a slew of injuries and loss of form. And that has resulted in Jose turning to Smalling, Lindelof and Phil Jones as his preferred defensive set up.

In many people’s opinion, Bailly may actually be the best defender at Manchester United. In his first year, he was the most consistent of all the players the Red Devils brought in.

He is technically gifted, he is poised under pressure and does well to avoid the high press of forwards. He is disciplined in 1v1 situations. And probably beneficial to Arsenal, he has the technical confidence to play the ball through to a supporting midfield. Something instrumental when trying to play out of the back. He has weaknesses as well, the first being as we mentioned his fitness issues. The second is moments of indiscipline.

We do know that Emery was an admirer of Bailly when the Ivorian was at both Espanyol and Villareal. It would also seem like Bailly would be the perfect replacement for an inconsistent Mustafi should the Gunners decide to move the German this coming summer. Still, it’s United and well, I’d say the odds of moving him now are remote.

Malang Sarr (current club OGC Nice)

Age:  19
Nationality: French/Senegalese
Height: 6’ 0”
Foot: Left
Value: €15,000,000

We’re going to be honest, we didn’t know much about Malang Sarr until someone brought him to our attention. And frankly, all we needed to know is that he is currently spending his time under the tutelage of former Arsenal star Patrick Vieira to get on the hype train. Okay, that’s not all I need to know.

At 19 years old, he is already an integral part of the Nice team that surprised everyone last year finishing third in Ligue 1. He is a hometown hero and burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old scoring a rocket header in the opening match of the 16/17 season.

Initially developing under Lucien Favre, he is a payer who has all the technical qualities for a team that likes to play out of the back. He plays a no-nonsense game and is quite strong at reading the game. Under Favre’s demanding eye, he made 20 more passes per game than the average defender with nearly 10% greater accuracy. He also has a tendency to make significantly more interceptions than most players in his role.

He represents the kind of player I think Mislintat would look for. Quality yet not expensive. Also, not drawing everyone’s eyes – yet. He would be a long-term solution and, in my opinion, would definitely fit the profile for a club looking to rebuild with young talented players who can figure in right away.

Dayot Upamecano (current club RB Leipzig)

Age:  20
Nationality: French
Height: 6’ 1”
Foot: Right
Value: €27,000,000

“He is now the best centre-back. He is a top player, fast, clever good in a duel; it’s just very hard to get past him.” – Leipzig forward Yussuf Poulsen.
 “He loves defending (and) getting the ball off opponents. He’s still young and has room for improvement but he has a great attitude and a lot of determination.” – France youth coach Jean-Claude Giuntini. said he has the world at his feet and they may not be wrong. Once considered a shy player, he has continued to grow in stature for Leipzig.

He is style is similar to that of Mats Hummels and shines with in-game defensive intelligence. He reads the game well and knows intuitively when to close down space. When he wins the ball back, he is solid in the pass and redistributes the ball effectively which would help to a team that likes to play quickly in transition. He is fast and has an eye for goal getting three tallies already.

The defender has featured in 30 games for France already right up to the U21 side. It was during his time with the U17s in 2015 that France won the UEFA European Championship at that level. For Leipzig, he has amassed 53 games already since his arrival in January 2017. Last season he clocked 2,265 minutes in the Bundesliga alone.

His price may be a little steep for a January transfer but he definitely fits the long-term profile for a club that needs to overhaul its defensive unit.

Daniele Rugani (current club Juventus)

Age:  24
Nationality: Italian
Height: 6’ 3”
Foot: Right
Value: €22,000,000

This past summer there were strong links of Rugani to Chelsea. Of course, the move of Sarri to Chelsea would’ve made that possible and the player’s agent confirmed it. But Rugani never sanctioned a deal and Juventus were in no hurry to move him.

Still, with Bonucci returning to Juventus, his starts in Serie A have been few and far between. Additionally, he has been unable to secure a new deal with the Italian Champions.

He has the playing style we’d prefer – and he completed an average of 68.5 passes per game last season in Serie A – the sixth highest in the league. He had a 90.9% passing accuracy and again for a team that likes to play out of the back, his passing stats clearly show this as one of his biggest strengths.

He is a well-disciplined player even going back to his time at Empoli where under Sarri he only managed one yellow card in an entire season. He averages just 1.1 fouls per game.

Rugani is rarely caught out of position and would rather track runs and provide cover. He isn’t very versatile so, he’d only play CB for this club.

With his age and playing ability, he is a player who could come in right away and make a huge difference with our defensive frailties. Still, the question remains, do Juve want to sell and if they do would Rugani rather go to Chelsea where he is familiar with Sarri’s approach?

Mouctar Diakhaby (current club Valencia)

Age:  21
Nationality: French
Height: 6’ 1”
Foot: Right
Value: €15,000,000

This past summer Diakhaby rejected Everton and Newcastle to make the move to Valencia. So, it does seem unlikely that a January move would be in the offing. But he is a young player to keep an eye, especially as Arsenal look to reconstitute the weakest part of their side.

A strong imposing CB, at 6’4” he is not without his faults with consistency and concentration setting him back. However, as with many of the young French players we’re seeing these days he is a player combining the basic skills of his position with outstanding technical play.

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