Mapping Out Mavropanos’ Arsenal Future
Death, taxes, and the Arsenal fanbase being concerned over losing young players; these are constants that you cannot get away from.
This is an unfortunate reality given the current state of affairs, however. With the nature of the summer market looming in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Arsenal finds itself at a crossroads in how it goes about squad building moving forward.
The likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson have done well to give enough for the manager, Mikel Arteta, to consider as he looks to stamp his ethos on a crop of players desperate for direction and further growth.
With Emile Smith-Rowe still to return to north London after his time at Huddersfield Town comes to an end, there’s another Arsenal youngster whose future hangs in the balance.
Billed as a player to structure the club’s long-term defense around, Greek center-back Konstantinos Mavropanos may soon find himself with a career-defining choice to make.
Currently on-loan with Bavarian outfit 1.FC Nürnberg, Mavropanos has built on what was already a budding reputation upon his arrival at Arsenal. Though he has only featured ten times in the 2.Bundesliga in total, he has been ever-present at the Max-Morlock-Stadion, appearing in all but one of their Rückrunde matches as a starter.
Der Club’s troubles notwithstanding (they sit in 15th, just one place outside the relegation playoff slot), the Greek U-21 international has been a defensive beacon during a campaign that could see Nürnberg follow the likes of 1.FC Kaiserslautern and TSV 1860 München, and find themselves in the 3.Bundesliga come next campaign.
Through ten starts (missing two via a pelvic injury) this term, Mavropanos has won an impressive 5.1 aerial duels/90min, while registering a very credible 3.4 interceptions/90min, and 4.2 clearances/90min.
Additionally, his completed pass percentage of 82.3%, 6.2 long-balls/90min, and 50.2 passes/ 90min show a player who exhibits a well-rounded game for someone who is still just 22-years old.
Truly, this is a loan-spell that has proven invaluable for a player looking for a pathway to regular football. In that same light, it forces Arsenal into a decision that may end in a direction many are likely to deem foolish at the very least.
At current, should David Luiz extend his current deal and Pablo Mari sign a full contact with the club, Arteta finds himself with the small problem of no less than seven center-backs at the club come to the end of the current campaign.
With the return of both Mavropanos and William Saliba an inevitability, the first-year manager must decide whether to part ways with a few of the Gunners’ aging defensive options and put faith in the new crop or, sell-on one or two of the younger players while their stock is at a high point; Mavro being one of them.
Rumors continue to circulate on whether or no Luiz will extend, and it also remains unclear on what the future holds for not only Mari but Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis as well.
If the plan moving forward was always going to be to look at the long-term project potential under Arteta given the crop of youngsters currently at the Emirates, then surely the prudent course of action would be to find a suitable retirement home for Sokratis, while moving on from Luiz entirely. This directive leaves the door open for Mavropanos to stake his place as the ideal partner for Saliba, providing the long-term partnership at the back that so many of the Arsenal faithful have been crying out for since the Koscielny-BFG pairing saw its last sunset.
The reality, however, is one a little more complicated. Despite arguably being 1.FCN’s best player during his spell in Bavaria, the jump from 2.Bundesliga to the Premier League is staggering. A more realistic series of events would see Mavropanos fight for a place as the third or fourth choice center-back, depending on the options available.
Should Arsenal both extend Luiz and sign-on Mari to a full contract, Mavropanos would be in a dog fight with Mustafi, Sokratis, Saliba, and Holding for the final two places for the club’s center-back core in the upcoming 2020-21 season.
Barring a scenario that seems unlikely, Arsenal supporters may need to come to terms with the notion that Mavropanos will either be shifted out on loan yet again, or worse, sold for a considerable profit.
Linked with summer interest from VfL Wolfsburg, SV Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart, and 1.FSV Mainz 05, there are pathways for both options to be left on the table moving forward.
All four clubs mentioned could indeed do with a bit of defensive reinforcement, but it should be prioritized that, should another loan be considered, that Mavropanos plays in the German top-flight rather than another season in the second tier. Considering current form, that likely rules out Werder, while Mainz 05 sits just three points clear of a relegation playoff.
Stuttgart’s expected immediate return to the Bundesliga is currently on track as they sit second in the 2.Bundesliga and battle it out with Arminia Bielefeld, Hamburger SV, and FC Heidenheim for the top three places in the league. Wolfsburg unexpectedly – and to their credit – reside in 6th in the BuLi, with a decent chance to earn midweek European fixtures next term.
These two options, at the moment, seem the logical destinations to consider, but the question that would remain is two fold; the insertion of a buy option in any loan deal, or, if a full sale is to be considered, a buy-back clause on our behalf should his development continue.
The biggest variable undoubtedly falls on the big Greek’s shoulders despite every other option worth considering. At 22, regular first-team football is the bare minimum for any player of his current level and potential ceiling; it is unlikely that he will get that at Arsenal in the near future.
There is every chance that he may see his future elsewhere, and if that holds true, there is not much we can do to persuade him otherwise.
In truth, selling him now may suit the club overall. We still have good defensive options at the club, and Saliba’s star has yet to even be seen in the Emirates sky. In him, we have a player who – according to many – is a young player far beyond his years with potential on a level close to the likes of Dayot Upamecano.
Selling Mavropanos for a considerable fee would give Arsenal additional financial muscle to reinforce our biggest problem area at current; the center of the park. Unfortunately, not all good young players remain at the club, and if their career takes off elsewhere, perhaps it was meant to be; Serge Gnabry being a prime example.
Regardless of what transpires this summer and moving forward under Arteta, the right players need to be kept at the club if we are to buy a seat at the title challenge table once again; perhaps Dinos Mavropanos will be amongst them. Only time will tell.