Arsenal must avoid signing World Cup Winner.
Another window, another month of Arsenal being linked to every player under the sun. Thankfully, the days of Yann M’Vila, Soloman Kalou, and Karim Benzema are behind us, yet this has not stopped the club being linked with a whole host of new faces, mostly at centre-back. Bayern Munich and Germany centre-back Jerome Boateng is one such link, with Sky reporting that the Gunners have made enquiries about signing the World-Cup winner at a reduced price. In this article, I will demonstrate why Arsenal must avoid repeating past mistakes and throwing money away by signing the 31-year-old defender.
Arsenal’s new transfer philosophy has been a mixture of signing youth players before they fulfil their potential and adding to these a smattering of experienced or past their peak players. They consider this to represent the best value for money in a hugely inflated market. This is also why they have previously moved for Sokratis (then 30) and David Luiz (aged 32). By this model then, Jerome Boateng is a perfect fit, a man with significant experience and trophies to show for it.
Like much that Arsenal have achieved in the years since Wenger however, this logic is the product of muddled thinking among the club’s hierarchy. This can be seen in the managerial appointment, where interviewees ranged from Mikel Arteta to Max Allegri to Unai Emery, all of whom are very different stylistically. They chose Emery, then seemingly bought players unsuited to the Spaniard’s system such as Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos. 18 months on, and they have the chance to rectify this error under a head coach much better suited to the club than Emery ever was.
Arteta has been brought in to rebuild the club, that much is clear. He has already lost Calum Chambers to long-term injury and Shkodran Mustafi will surely be sold, or tried to be, by the Gunners. This leaves Arsenal a little short at the back, with just Rob Holding and the inexperienced Konstantinos Mavropanos as recognisable back-up to seeming first choice pair Luiz and Sokratis. A centre-back is clearly needed then. However, for the purposes of rebuilding the club, it would make far more sense to go for a younger centre-back who would command comparatively lower wages than the trophy-laden Boateng, as well as having the potential to grow into part of the club’s future.
Aside from the club’s ethos, there are much more practical factors to consider before discounting Boateng. A mark in his favour could be that it is notoriously difficult to find good value in January, and so he may be the only option.
However, there are reasons for this. Bayern Munich are equally short of bodies in central defence, having lost both Lucas Hernandez and Nicolas Sule to injuries from which they are yet to recover. Due to this, Boateng has found himself thrust back into the fray, racking up nine appearances in the Bundesliga and a further four in the Champions League.
He has not covered himself in glory, notably being sent off ten minutes into Nico Kovac’s last game in charge, a 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. In fact, WhoScored rate his performances at 6.51, lower than both David Luiz (6.67) and Sokratis (6.74) – hardly an upgrade on two already questionable centre-backs Arsenal already possess.
Another point in Boateng’s favour is his recent lack of injury, missing just five games through injury since the start of the 2018/19 season. Despite his fitness, however, he has racked up just 29 Bundesliga appearances in this time and has not played over 20 league games since the 2014/15 season. Not a fantastic endorsement of his fitness and ability to play week in, week out as arsenal challenge on three fronts.
January is a particularly difficult time to buy for many reasons, but most importantly in this case because clubs need a player to come in and hit the ground running. For this reason, clubs who make successful moves tend to buy within the Premier League.
Boateng has Premier League experience, a short spell at Manchester City, but after 8 years in the Bundesliga, he would surely need time to adapt to the physicality of the league once more. By this point, it would likely be close to the summer window, when much value could be had and a much younger centre-back acquired.
Fundamentally, a move for Jerome Boateng would take money away from more important, younger signings. Arsenal have already struggled to move on high earners past their peak (see Henrikh Mkhitaryan), and another would make a mockery of their entire new transfer policy. On-the-pitch too, with Rob Holding showing promise and the highly coveted William Saliba joining in the summer, signing Boateng would threaten to hinder their development, and lead to a never-ending cycle of signing “experienced” centre-backs to strengthen an ageing back-line.
For all these reasons, it is imperative that Arsenal steer well clear of Jerome Boateng. The longer-term vision must not be clouded by the thought of short-term gain, especially in a season where the club are already so far off the pace that it is effectively a write-off. It would be much more beneficial to sign younger, more impressionable players who Arteta can spend six months bedding into his system before next season than the Bayern Munich man, and probably would be much better value too.