As a new transfer window dawns it is clear there are many areas of the squad that need strengthening. Away from a strategy for replacing Sanchez and Ozil, we also need to focus on those centre back and Defensive midfield positions that we talk about every window. Out of the two, I would prioritise a new centre back.
We need to be proactive about replacing Mertesacker (not leaving it until the summer) with a dominant, aggressive and organised defender that will complement our stable of sweepers including Koscielny, Monreal and Mustafi.
Below is a shortlist (in order or priority) of what should be our targets:
1. Kostas Manolas: Not the most original choice but the most ideal player on the market for what we need. The perfect uncompromisingly centre-half who combines aggression, power and dominance (especially in the air) with modern day traits like pace and comfort playing out from the back. There is not another player on the market who brings the attributes we are lacking so perfectly, who is also available and likely to want to join Arsenal. At 26 he is coming into his prime and has an affordable release clause of 32.5 million.
2. Medhi Benatia: Again combines presence and defensive organisation with modern day pace and ability on the ball. His age of 30 years old isn’t a barrier given we are looking for experience and the hope that Rob Holding will develop into the role in around 3 years’ time anyway. The biggest challenge with Benatia (who has been identified as one of Serie A’s best defenders) is the likelihood of us attracting him away from Juventus.
3. David Luiz: This one has been in the papers recently and is divisive with most fans either completely for or against. At his best, he is strong, aggressive and dominant in the air, at his worst, error-prone and caught out positionally. My worry is David Luiz feels very ‘Arsenal’ which is what we need to get away from defensively. I can imagine on a good Arsenal day he will look like a world beater but on a bad Arsenal day he will compound our defensive reputation by giving away cheap goals with elementary mistakes. Personally, I would take him based on the Luiz of last season who was the bedrock of a title-winning defence bringing presence, strength, aggression and aerial dominance (qualities we sorely lack).
4. Sokratis: This would be a contrast to our current centre-backs. Aggressive, an aerial giant and renowned for his tackling ability, Sokratis would in effect be the heir to the Mertesacker throne (albeit in a slightly different way) as it would mean a return to the days of defending on the edge of our 18-yard box due to his lack of pace. However, what it would mean is aggression and physicality in abundance (alleviating future risk of us being bullied away from home). This purchase is clearly not as ideal as the above as it would mean changing our entire defensive approach but Sokratis is an option that would undoubtedly strengthen our squad and give us a different option.
In all honesty, Arsenal have a policy of spending the bulk of their transfer funds on attacking talent, with defensive vacancies filled with cheaper, lesser-known commodities. But in this window we should just bite the bullet and bring in a top-class Central Defender (with the attributes we are lacking) in an attempt to reduce our goals conceded that could equate to an invaluable extra 6-9 points come the end of the season.