Arsenal’s defence has been the problem of the decade. Their defensive midfield, wingbacks, and centre-backs have all not been good enough the last 10 plus years. Sure, there are some exceptions who were consistently brilliant like Laurent Koscielny and now Kieran Tierney. However, there always seems to be a weak spot in Arsenal’s backline. This season Arsenal’s glaring weakness has been their centre-backs. This brings about the question: Where do Arsenal go from here with all their centre-backs?
David Luiz – Depth
In a shocking decision (or not so shocking if you know Arsenal), Arsenal decided to re-sign David Luiz for another season. Luiz has been very inconsistent this season. He will perform extremely well some matches, but then turn around and have a shocking performance. Some examples of these shocking performances were Liverpool away, Chelsea away, and Man City away.
Arsenal is bringing him back probably to save money because he did reduce his wages by a substantial amount. There are positives to Luiz’s game despite all his defensive mishaps. He is very good at playing a long ball, he is comfortable in possession, and he is good in the air. Many Chelsea managers seemed to get the most out of Luiz deploying him in a CDM position in front of 2 centre-backs. Luiz also has very good distribution so this defensive midfield role could suit him. At the end of the day, I would have preferred letting him walk, but you have to play the cards you are dealt.
Shkodran Mustafi – Sell
I could write a full article just about Mustafi, but I will keep this short. Mustafi has had his ups and downs with the club. The downs have unfortunately been more frequent than the ups. No question he has improved under Arteta and really just this season, in general, has been pretty solid at the back. However, we saw a glimpse of the old Mustafi at Tottenham away. The Mustafi who makes one mistake and then all of a sudden cannot top making mistakes. I like Mustafi as a person and hope he does well wherever he ends up, but I think Arsenal should try to move him this transfer window.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos – Sell
Sokratis had a very good 2018/2019 season but was poor at the start of this season under Emery. He is very physical and aggressive which he uses to his main advantage. However, he is an old school defender who does not fit into Arteta’s system. He is 32 now with one year left on his contract and he wants out. There are already rumors that he could be on his way to VfB Stuttgart because he is not getting into the first team. I think parting ways with Sokratis would be the right decision at this point. I loved Sokratis’ passion and he even scored some big goals, but he is not good on the ball and is a liability when trying to play out from the back.
Sead Kolasinac – Sell
Kolasinac is a left-back by trade, but Arteta has been using him as a left centre-back since Tierney took over at left-back. Kolasinac is good going forward but not great. He makes very good runs, but the final ball has been lacking quality. At center-back he has looked subpar at best. He was never great defensively and has looked uncomfortable trying to play out from the back. He gets beat a lot one-on-one and makes many errors like the one against Sheffield in the FA Cup and the one against Tottenham away. I would look to sell Kolasinac this transfer window, but I could see them keeping him for depth because he can play LCB and LWB.
Rob Holding – Depth
Holding is a very good centre-back who has been very unlucky with injuries. He has had many great performances in an Arsenal shirt, but never really has held that elusive starting position. Yes, injuries have been one of the major reasons for this, but I think a lot of it has come down to manager preference. I think we should keep Holding at least for depth, but I wouldn’t count on him controlling a starting position next year because Arteta has constantly preferred Luiz, Mustafi, and Kolasinac.
Calum Chambers – Depth
Chambers did earn some starts at the beginning of the season and did perform pretty well. We have not seen a lot of Chambers under Arteta because he damaged the ligament in his knee in Arteta’s first home match. I think Chambers might fit into Arteta’s system especially because he started him the first and only opportunity he got which was in a big match. I would like to see Arsenal keep Chambers has a depth CB who can also fill in at RB if needed. Arsenal has been hit really hard by injuries every season so having a lot of depth in the side is very important.
Konstantinos Mavropanos – Loan
Arsenal has signed Mavropanos to a contract extension and loaned him to VfB Stuttgart for next season. We have not seen enough of Mavropanos at a high level to make any decisions yet. He is still only 22 and definitely has potential. He only got 11 appearances at FC Nuremberg in the lower German division (2. Bundesliga) this season and needs more experience. Personally, I would have preferred loaning him to a Championship side or a smaller Premier League side, so he can get more accustomed to the English style of football. However, he will face a high level of competition in the Bundesliga as Stuttgart have just been promoted.
Pablo Mari – Start
Mari was taken in on loan this January and we recently signed him on a permanent deal for next season. I do not think we have seen enough of Mari in the Prem to judge him yet. However, Arteta seems to like what he sees because he had enough confidence to start Mari against Man City after the restart. If Arteta is happy with Mari, I will trust his judgement because from what I have seen he looks like a very solid option. Mari should be back in full training in September.
William Saliba – Start
Saliba is a very exciting French CB who Arsenal signed for 27 million. This signing was especially sweet because they stole him from Tottenham who was also trying to sign him at the time. Saliba is only 19 years old and his only experience has been playing in France. Arsenal signed him from AS Saint-Étienne and then proceeded to loan him back to AS Saint-Étienne for this season. Saliba, unfortunately, got injured and did not play most of the season. However, when he played he was brilliant! You can read more about him by clicking below for my previous article. I would like to see Arsenal keep him next year and let him try to win a starting position.
I would bring in Nathan Ake who is a left-footed centre-back at Bournemouth. He is very pacey, good with his feet, and good in the air. He could come cheaper than normal because Bournemouth is most likely going to be relegated. I would also love to bring in Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig. This will not be easy because there is a lot of competition for his signature. Also, we will not be in the Champions League and probably won’t be the Europa League either. On top of this, no one (not even Arteta) knows how much Arsenal’s budget will be this summer and Upamecano will not come cheap.
Arsenal needs to figure out their centre-back situation with this transfer window more than anything. Especially because Arteta likes to use 3 CB’s in his system. If Kroenke and management decide to be cheap this summer, I would like to see them give Saliba a chance. Kieran Tierney at LCB with Bukayo Saka at LWB is also a solid option. Arsenal’s defence has been a thorn in their side for more than a decade and needs to be properly addressed this summer.
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