Unai Emery will be in the market for a centre-back or two when the transfer window opens, but who should he sign to replace who from his current squad?
Arsenal’s current position on the table is contrasting to their defensive performances this season. The Gunners have been leaky, inconsistent and sloppy at the back, conceding most goals among top six sides. Arsenal did strengthen their back line in the summer with Sokratis coming in from Borussia Dortmund and performing well; as a collective, they have been erratic once more.
Add an injury crisis to the already poor defensive form; Arsenal endured the most defensive injuries among top six sides this season. Right from the start Arsenal defenders have suffered severe injuries, which continued to end first Rob Holding’s, then Hector Bellerin’s season. In recent weeks, however, Unai Emery’s men have found the rhythm at the back, but the summer window must be utilized to solve the problems.
Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, and Stephan Lichtsteiner are out of contracts, while the likes of Holding and Calum Chambers will come back in the squad. But Emery must address the issues by dipping into the market for a quality defender, especially knowing what a full season demands. The Hard Tackle have a three-man shortlist of central defenders for Arsenal to consider in the summer window, so let’s get with it.
Willi Orban – RB Leipzig
The 26-year-old Willi Orban has been playing some excellent football this season at the centre of defence for Leipzig. The Hungarian has been an integral part of the German club in their quest to finish in the top four of the Bundesliga. To put a perspective on his performances, Leipzig has 13 clean sheets in the league this season, 12 of them have come when Orban has played.
Additionally, Leipzig lost only once in the league this season when Orban has played, while back in December, the defender was just behind Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk in terms of performance data. Orban is fantastic in the air, while also being strong in his tackles. The defender also contributes well to attack, chipping in with five goals and providing one assist.
Such has been his form, its a shame that he missed about 8 games this season due to Leipzig’s rotation policy, but a look into the player’s profile on stats site WhoScored.com, it reveals Orban has no known weaknesses. Might sound too far-fetched, but his statistics represent a reputation that is among the best defenders in Europe right now.
The player does not have the flair and reputation of a Van Dijk or other pricey players, meaning if Arsenal make an early move, could secure him for a bargain. For his age, he represents sound investment for the future, and it would be ideal if Arsenal signed him rather than other, costly options.
Felipe – FC Porto
Another one of those players who are not visible on the radar, Brazilian defender Felipe has been an integral part of Porto’s season. However, this season, Felipe has slipped under the radar; instead, the focus of everyone across the football world has been set on his defensive partner and new Real Madrid signing, Eder Militao.
If one watches the Portuguese league and Porto’s games, in particular, they’d know Felipe’s reliability in both boxes, dominance in the air and the leadership at the back. Militao’s performances might have been eye-catching, but its Felipe, who’s been shining all throughout. Last season he was integral in Porto’s title triumph, and this season too he has excelled, taking his side on top of the pile.
One more stat to his name comes with most interceptions this season than any other player in Portugal, but it’s his overall game that is important. The Brazilian is 29 years old, vastly experienced and his performances had earned him a call up to the Brazilian side last year. For now, he is at the peak of his powers and could represent a deal similar to that of Sokratis last summer for Arsenal.
Arsenal’s direction towards signing defenders last season was more for the short term, and if they are to continue that trend then at 29 years of age, Felipe represents one of the top choices around. The fact that the spotlight is firmly fixed on Militao, Arsenal could actually do a deal on the cheap with Porto, in which case it surely would represent a steal.
Fernando Calero – Real Valladolid
With Arsenal widely tipped to make that centre-back signing in the summer, many media publications are to bring back some old links, including that of Calero. The Real Valladolid defender has been one of the vital cogs in the club’s mission to get going in La Liga. Last season he was immense in helping Valladolid achieve promotion and this season has played every minute of their league campaign.
Such has been his role at the back for the Spanish side that back in December they had conceded fewer goals than leaders Barcelona. His stats speak a different language altogether. He’s ranked among the top five players in the league for clearances and blocks, while his passing is impressive too, with more than 85% accuracy.
At 23 years of age, he represents the future, and by the looks of it, he could be the next Laurent Koscielny for Arsenal. Emery has been doing his rounds to get more information on the player, with a view to make him come to the Emirates. To top it all up, Calero has a meager £10 million release clause in his contract (h/t Metro), something that could undoubtedly attract Arsenal’s interest.
The players mentioned above all represent value for money, as the understanding is that Arsenal may not have vast sums of money to spend. Last summer, Arsenal got total value on their transfers, and it seems the club have found the blueprint to their future dealings.
On one side, Orban, Felipe, and Calero are all considered less expensive, but the performances for their respective clubs have shown they have it in them to upgrade to the next level. Felipe, due to his age is the only one representing a short term factor, while Orban and Calero have the majority of their career in front of them.
Arsenal might not be appealing enough compared to other big clubs in England and Europe, but under Emery, there is hope for challenging for honours. If Arsenal are serious about their need for a centre-back, they should look no further than these three options. But who will they end up signing and if it were you who would be your ideal centre-back signing for Arsenal?