As we enter the new year, Arsenal have the same problems as they did when this decade began – a lack of real quality in their back line.
Sokratis has proved to be sturdy but rash, David Luiz is, while a great ball-playing defender, an accident waiting to happen and Shkodran Mustafi is, well, Shkodran Mustafi.
With the long-term future of Dinos Mavropanos still undecided and Calum Chambers suffering a season-ending ACL injury in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, that leaves Rob Holding as Arsenal’s only reliable centre-back for the rest of the 2019/20 season.
With that said, here are five centre-backs who Arsenal should consider signing in the January transfer window in order to push for Champions League qualification.
Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
The 21-year-old France international has impressed with Bundesliga side RB Leipzig over the past few seasons, and was a stalwart in the 2018/19 season which saw the east German side finish with the best defensive record in the league.
So far this season, Upamecano has featured 19 times for Leipzig so far this season across all competitions and has helped RB Leipzig to concede the third fewest goals in the league (20), behind only Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg (both 18).
Tall, tenacious and capable of playing out from the back, Upamecano is exactly the type of defender Mikel Arteta should be looking at. With his contract set to expire in June 2021, Upamecano shouldn’t warrant a hefty price-tag and could be available for as little as €40m.
Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)
Another centre-back Arsenal should consider signing in the January transfer window is Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake.
Starting off his career with Chelsea, but also featuring for Watford and now Bournemouth, Ake has bags of Premier League experience having racked up 133 league appearances and, still only 24 years of age, has plenty of time to improve.
Harbouring an impressive technical ability and quick across the pitch, Ake has been an integral part of Bournemouth’s back line since the 2017.
However, with Chelsea inserting a £40m buy-back clause in Ake’s contract when sold to Bournemouth, Arsenal would no doubt face competition from the Blues for the Dutchman’s signature.
Merih Demiral (Juventus)
Merih Demiral is another fantastic young centre-back who would appease even the most critical of Arsenal fans. The 21-year-old initially struggled to make an impression at Juventus following the £67.5m arrival of Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax in the summer, but has excited in recent weeks, subsequently starting the Old Lady’s last three games.
Quick, marauding and a great reader of the game, the Turkish international has the potential to become one of Europe’s elite centre-backs. Demiral joined Juventus from Sassuolo, where he made 17 Serie A appearances and scored twice, for £15m in the summer and may therefore demand a considerable fee.
However, with De Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci, Daniele Rugani and Cristian Romero (on loan at Genoa) all at the club, Juventus are stocked in the centre-back position and may be tempted to sell if the Gunners come in with a reasonable fee for Demiral.
With a number of Premier League clubs (including Leicester City) monitoring the 21-year-old’s situation, Arsenal will have to act fast to secure the services of the Turk.
Nacho (Real Madrid)
29 years of age with 195 appearances for Real Madrid, Nacho would be a hugely experienced option for the Gunners in the January transfer window and, with just six months left on his contract, he would be a cheap one too.
The Spain international never shies away from a tackle and possesses a solid level of concentration, which is something which the current Arsenal centre-backs severely lack. Having played over 70 games as a full-back, Nacho is capable of playing anywhere across the back line and could provide cover for Héctor Bellerín and Kieran Tierney, which will prove invaluable for Arteta.
Moreover, with Nacho playing just 303 minutes of La Liga action so far this campaign, Raul Sanllehi, Edu and Vinai Venkatesham may be able to convince Zinedine Zidane to part ways with the 29-year-old in the January transfer window for next to nothing.
Jérôme Boateng (Bayern Munich)
According to seemingly every outlet in both England and Germany, Arsenal are interested in signing Bayern Münich defender Jérôme Boateng in the January transfer window.
The 31-year-old may be entering the twilight of his career but, having amassed over 450 career appearances, would bring heaps of vital experience to Arsenal’s defence. Question marks continue to loom over the quality of Boateng as he has faltered in recent seasons as the former World Cup winner has struggled to maintain form. However, having won over 17 domestic and international trophies, Arsenal fans can rest assured that the German international will improve their defensive solidity.
Nevertheless Boateng is by far the oldest player on this list and, despite a reported fee of just €5m being enough to secure his services, would not represent a shrewd acquisition for the Gunners. Arsenal have attempted to plug the gap by signing experienced players for a relatively small fee in recent years (see Petr Čech, Stephan Lichtsteiner and David Luiz) with little success and Boateng would appear to be another short-term fix for a long-term issue.