It’s no surprise that Arsenal are planning for a massive makeover in defense this summer. After all, the Gunners have endured defensive issues for a few years now and need to stabilize their back four heading into the 2020/21 season. Arsenal’s brass have, however, brought in ample reinforcements in both full back positions during the current campaign. Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolasinac, and the out-of-position Bukayo Saka are quality options at left back, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles (another player that is better in a different position) and Cedric Soares give Hector Bellerin solid competition at right back.
The Soares situation is something that will also be sorted out this summer. Arsenal currently have the Portugal international on loan from Southampton; however, his deal with the Saints expires in June. This means that if Soares plays well with the Gunners, they would theoretically be able to sign the player on a free deal.
Center back is clearly the more interesting case. Arsenal currently have seven first-team center backs under contract at the moment. This includes William Saliba (on loan at Saint Etienne) and Pablo Mari (currently on loan from Flamengo). Sort of like the Soares deal, Mari will most likely be brought in permanently, although for a fee, if he continues to impress head coach Mikel Arteta.
Of the seven central defenders, Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, and Sokratis would all enter the final year of their contracts next season. With Mustafi and Sokratis almost certain to not receive new deals, the north London outfit could cash in on these two and sell them before potentially losing them for free. Luiz could also be dealt with in a similar manner; however, an additional one-year extension offer could make sense to help Saliba grow into a similar player.
Speaking on the subject of possibly leaving Arsenal, Sokratis recently made it clear that he wants to see his minutes on the pitch increase. “I don’t know [if I will leave next year],” claimed the Greek defender. “I have one more year here but me, I never sit on my contract. I don’t care. If I’m not happy, I don’t play enough, or the coach doesn’t like me, I don’t care about the contract.”
“For me, the money is not important, it is important I feel good, I feel happy, and the team is happy with me. If not, I take the road and I finish. I don’t think about it. I think every day to be happy and help the team and in the end we will see, but what I say is that I am not a player who sits on a contract—I don’t need it.”
Rob Holding is another interesting scenario at this position. Once highly regarded, the Englishman has managed to see just 86 total minutes in Premier League play during the current campaign. Although slowly integrated back into the squad due to a serious knee injury, Holding has been fit as of late, yet still can’t make the starting XI. Now 24, this summer could be a very significant time for his Arsenal career.
Ideally, most Premier League teams (especially clubs in European competitions) would want to have four or five quality central defenders in the squad. Having fewer than this could be dangerous with all of the different competitions to play and carrying more than five center backs could lead to players becoming disgruntled with a lack of playing time.
With Arsenal potentially selling multiple players in this position this summer, they will have to bring in at least one, possibly two, central defenders as replacements. Dayot Upamecano has been linked with the Gunners for over a year now and would be a fantastic addition to the squad this summer. Whether or not Arsenal move for the RB Leipzig player, it is certain that the Gunners need to sign a top-tier defender to partner Saliba for the foreseeable future.
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