With the signing of Gabriel Magalhaes from Lille imminent, Arsenal have a surplus of centre backs in their squad. The arrival of the Brazilian and the return of William Saliba from a loan spell at St. Etienne mean that we now have a whopping NINE centre backs on our roster.
How we got here is clear. In the vacuum left by the ending of the Laurent Koscielny/Per Mertesacker partnership Arsenal have gone for a quantity over quality approach to acquiring centre backs. No disrespect to anyone involved, but it’s fair to say that it hasn’t worked.
Through issues of fitness and form no defender has been able to assert himself as the dominant presence in the Arsenal backline. In fact, this state of perennial flux saw us field eight different players in the centre half position of multiple formations last season.
As fun as it might be to see Arsenal line-up with a back nine and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on his own up top, the reality is that we need to offload some players. This is a transfer window where our budgetary constraints mean that selling well is almost as important as buying well. So who stays and who goes? Let’s take a look-
Gabriel Magalhaes –
Rumours are that he will be signing a five-year contract, so it looks like he’s in it for the long haul. Pacey, strong and good on the ball, he’s what we’ve needed for a long time.
But if this list is anything to go by it’s worth waiting a season or two before we fully jump on the hype train.
William Saliba –
Another easy one. Saliba did well on his loan spell back at St. Etienne last season (although baring in mind that last season only finished yesterday, it still seems strange calling it that).
In the manner befitting of a post-Wenger era Arsenal centre back he also picked up an injury that ruled him out for much of the campaign. Expect this to mean that he is gradually eased into the first team picture at the Emirates instead of being thrown in at the deep end.
A quick google of his name and articles immediately pop up comparing Saliba to Raphael Varane and Virgil Van Dijk. My hope is that we can temper these unfair expectations for an immediate impact next season ever so slightly. With our notoriously rational fanbase I’m sure that shouldn’t be an issue. He stays.
Shkodran Mustafi –
There is an argument that Shkodran Mustafi was our most improved player last season. The fact that he still wasn’t particularly great shows how low a point he was starting from.
The World Cup winner – yes, he did actually win a World Cup – has one year remaining on his deal so now is surely the time to sell.
Arteta clearly likes Mustafi and has managed to get some OK performances out of him but I’m just not onboard the Mustafi redemption train. Now is the time to be ruthless and cut our losses on what has proved to be an appalling waste of £35m.
Konstantinos Mavropanos –
The Greek under-21 international has already been sent out on loan to Bundesliga II side Stuttgart for the coming season after impressing on loan in the same division at Nuremberg last campaign.
He has shown flashes since Sven ‘diamond-eye’ Mislentat brought him to the Emirates in January 2018, but his path to the first team has been blocked by injury and more senior arrivals.
I would love to see him do well and make a return to us next season. Unfortunately though, I think this loan spell is just being used to fatten him up for a sale next summer.
Sokratis hasn’t really done an awful lot wrong at Arsenal. Mikel Arteta just clearly doesn’t fancy him. He played a grand total of three minutes in project restart and the writing seems to be on the wall.
Playing out from the back just isn’t really his game and at 32 there’s not much sense in hanging on to him.
Rumours suggest that we are about to sell Papa to Napoli. No hard feelings, but that’s probably for the best.
David Luiz –
David Luiz has already signed a one-year extension and so he stays next year. If rumours are to be believed he has played a big part in convincing his compatriots Gabriel and Willian to join us so that might not be all bad news.
He might be error prone but Mikel Arteta has clearly seen the leadership qualities the Brazilian has over what is such a young Arsenal squad.
Gabriel played his best football at Lille last season when partnered with experienced centre back Jose Fonte. The hope is that Luiz will play a similar guiding role to the former Southampton man before he heads off next summer.
Pablo Mari –
Another relatively new arrival, Pablo Mari is going to stay.
The Arsenal media team’s continuous attempts to troll their fanbase reached another peak today as the club posted a transfer announcement only for it to be the official confirmation that Mari and fellow January arrival Cedric Soares had signed their long-term deals. Perhaps they mispelt Thomas Partey and Thaigo Alcantara…
The arrival of fellow leftie Gabriel puts Mari’s position in the first team at risk. But after just three appearances so far, it would be mad to let him go so soon.
Calum Chambers –
Before he picked up his ACL injury in Mikel Arteta’s first home game in charge against Chelsea, Calum Chambers was probably having his best season in an Arsenal shirt.
He was the only defender to come out of the Unai Emery era with his head held high, and he slowly growing into something of a leader in the side.
Who knows how long it will take him to get back to that level, but his versatility means that he is worth keeping for next season at least. The likelihood is that he will be fifth choice in Arteta’s thinking. Whether he wants to play that role at the age of 25 remains to be seen.
Rob Holding –
Despite never establishing himself as a starter at Arsenal since his arrival in 2016, Rob Holding has played in and won two FA Cup finals for us.
His value is pretty high right now. A good loan spell could make it even higher though.
He has three years remaining on his contract so even if it goes badly, we can still get a decent price for him. If the loan goes well, then we have a ready-made replacement for David Luiz when he leaves next season. Leeds are interested and this deal seems to make sense for all parties.