Arsenal’s big German Per Mertesacker has been ruled out for five months with a knee injury. This would leave the Gunners woefully short in defence, and manager Arsene Wenger will be desperate to sign a top quality centre-back if he wants to compete for the title this coming season.
The 31-year-old centre-back pulled out of the Gunners’ pre-season tour of America and unfortunately for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, the extent of his injury has been revealed to be worse than previously thought.
El Confidencial journalist Kike Marin, who first broke the transfer of Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal, stated on twitter that the German could be out for at least 5 months.
— Kike Marin** (@Kike_Marin_) July 25, 2016
Arsene Wenger now has to find a top notch centre-back to shore up the defence and partner Laurent Koscielny. Neither Gabriel nor Calum Chambers have impressed since arriving at the Emirates, while new signing Rob Holding doesn’t yet have the experience of playing at the top level.
A centre-back will now be a priority for the Gunners this summer transfer window, as their French manager enters his final year in charge. Here are three centre-backs that Wenger and Arsenal could look at to ease their defensive problems.
1. Kostas Manolas
AS Roma’s Greek defender has attracted interest from Arsenal and their bitter London rivals Chelsea this summer. The 24-year-old has been putting in solid performances for Roma since his arrival in 2014, making 86 appearances in all competitions for the Romans.
Manolas missed just one of the club’s league matches this past season, with a success rate of 56% for his 49 tackles in the season. He also averaged more than 4 clearances and almost 2 interceptions per game [via Squawka].
However, the former Olympiacos centre-back will not come cheap, with Roma believed to be holding out for a £40 million transfer fee.
2. Daniele Rugani
Arsenal already have two young prospects among their ranks in Rob Holding and Calum Chambers, but the young Juventus central defender could well prove to be an astute signing. 21-year-old Daniele Rugani has been kept on the sidelines by the Bianconeri central defensive trio of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. The recent acquisition of Medhi Benatia from Bayern Munich has made it even more difficult for Rugani.
The Gunners are already interested in the young defender, having reportedly seen a €30 million bid for him rejected by Juve. Arsene Wenger might lay down the foundation for the future of an Arsenal without him by signing the Italian centre-back.
Rugani made only 17 appearances for the Serie A champions this past season, but was a mainstay for Empoli in the two previous seasons. He helped the Serie B club achieve promotion in 2013-14, and played in all their Serie A matches in 2015-16 without being substituted or booked.
The Italian already has pedigree and has spent a season learning from arguably the best defence in Europe. Wenger knows a thing or two about developing young talent, and Rugani may very well fulfil his potential at the Emirates Stadium.
3. Shkodran Mustafi
Former Everton defender Shkodran Mustafi has developed into a solid defender after moving away from Goodison Park in 2012. After a stint at Sampdoria, the 24-year-old joined Valencia where he has improved in leaps and bounds.
Mustafi was impressive for an otherwise lacklustre Valencia side in La Liga this past season. He registered 4.4 interceptions, 5 clearances and 0.7 blocks per game for Los Che in 28 appearances (via WhoScored). The German international also made three appearances for Die Mannschaft at the European Championships during their run to the semi-final.
Mustafi has attracted the interest of Antonio Conte and Chelsea, and their London rivals Arsenal could kill two birds with one stone by hijacking the deal. It is believed that Los Che could be tempted by a transfer fee of around £25 million, which would definitely suit the frugal spending habits of Arsenal. However, with big spending Chelsea also interested, that fee could rise considerably.