It looked as if Unai Emery could end up signing a defender during the January transfer window to help ease an injury-hit defence but eventually, it didn’t happen.
Laurent Koscielny returned to the fore after rupturing his Achilles during the second leg of Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid last season. Shkodran Mustafi also returned from injury to provide a boost for the Gunners, who have had Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Rob Holding consistently performing in defence.
But after Rob Holding injured his knee ligaments in the 2-2 draw at Manchester United that ruled him out for the season, Arsenal’s form has dropped miserably and with Sokratis ruled out for a month, the Gunners are left with Mustafi and Koscielny as options in central defence.
Of course, Emery has the alternative to use Nacho Monreal alongside Koscielny and Mustafi in central defence but Arsenal have not performed according to the standards whenever they have reverted to a three-man backline this season.
The problem for Emery is that Mustafi has been wildly inconsistent and the promising Konstantinos Mavropanos has just returned to full fitness. And then there is Koscielny, who is 33 and looks past his prime.
Last season, Arsenal conceded 51 goals. Wenger’s successor, Unai Emery, even with better personnel after extensive summer spending in defensive areas, has not been able to fix the defence. Such has been the club’s defensive vulnerabilities that they must start planning for the summer transfer window from now.
Arsenal must prioritise signing a central defender in the summer and Emery should target Bayer Leverkusen’s defensive lynchpin Jonathan Tah.
A product of the Hamburger youth system, Jonathan Tah, 22, joined Bayer Leverkusen back in 2015. He has been the bedrock of Leverkusen’s defence in the last couple of years, thereby establishing himself as one of the best defenders in Germany.
Still just 22 years old, Jonathan Tah is one of Germany’s brightest talents. The central defender played a key role, helping Leverkusen climb out of the relegation zone during the first half of the season and his performances need to be watched by Arsenal manager Unai Emery.
Standing at 6ft 5in, Tah, who signed a contract extension with Leverkusen until 2023, is a physically strong, technically gifted and an aerially dominant defender. He is quick on the ground despite being so tall and is extremely comfortable bringing the ball out from the back.
The German’s technical abilities on the ball combined with his positional awareness and reading of the game certainly adds to his value and would make him a fantastic fit for Emery’s Arsenal. However, the 22-year-old will need time to adapt to the pace and intensity of the Premier League.
A top-4 finish will be Emery’s priority in his first season at the Emirates, so the Gunners might want to sign some exceptional talents in the summer if they are to compete in the Champions League next season. The Gunners are in dire need of some world-class reinforcements in their defensive line-up and Tah could be perfect to solve their defensive woes.
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