Transfer Window Analysis Part Two: Full-Backs
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
This is the second part of a series analysing the current players at the club in each position and the difficult decisions that need to be made as well as potential targets the club must target in the upcoming window. Full-back is a relatively settled area of the current Arsenal squad, although there are a few question marks over certain individuals, and Arteta will have to be decisive when determining how much of his limited resources he uses to strengthen this area.
· Will take time to reach his best form again after such a serious injury.
· As the speed data from 2018 pre-season showed, his pace is not what it used to be. Aubameyang was reported to have registered a top speed of 10.01m/s, whilst Bellerin only at 9.63m/s.
· It remains to be seen whether he can adapt to the inverted full-back role.
Verdict: Keep (Only bids over £50 million must be looked at)
· Hasn’t played a single minute yet due to his injury and the league being halted.
· 2016 Euros winner can play both LB and RB.
· Would be a reliable and solid back-up option for both positions.
· Unlike the Lichtsteiner signing, he’s still in his prime and can be reliable for 2-3 years at least.
Verdict: Make loan permanent as long as the wages are reasonable.
· An unfortunate sequence of injuries derailed his season.
· Looked promising when he played and needs a consistent run of games under Arteta.
· Would provide more balance both defensively and offensively rather than making Xhaka cover the left flank.
· Despite his physical presence, he’s had too many niggles and muscle injuries in his time here which typically indicate that he’s not suited for the league.
· He will most probably be the back-up option to Tierney, but financially that’s not feasible with his wages.
Verdict: Sell as long as a solid replacement is available.
Whilst these are the four natural full-backs, the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Calum Chambers and Bukayo Saka provide extra depth in these areas if necessary. The quantity in these roles are not at a shortage.
Arsenal have to focus on strengthening the midfield and centre-back areas in the coming window but should a scenario arise where Bellerin leaves, then these are the targets to look at:
· Should Arsenal sell Bellerin, Max Aarons would a great option to look at after his breakout season with Norwich in the Premier League. At 20, he would be a long-term signing which would align with the current transfer policy. Despite Norwich’s defence being poor this campaign, Aarons has impressed. He’s lightning-quick and has the energy to go up and down the flank all game. The only downside would be that his attributes aren’t suited to the inverted full-back role, but with age on his side, there’s enormous potential to adapt and develop.
· The other quality replacement for Bellerin would be Achraf Hakimi, although he would cost more than the club could get for Bellerin. He’s been incredible for Dortmund on loan and at 21, has the potential to be world-class. In his brief career so far, he’s played at RB, RWB, LB and LWB, so his versatility is one of many reasons why his asking price is so high.
· For a more established and experienced option, Arsenal don’t need to look further than Thomas Meunier. He’s a free agent after this season concludes and would fit into Arteta’s system very easily. The negative side of getting a great player on free would be the high wages they would command, and would require the club to get rid of other high-wage players.
Only if Arsenal are able to move Kolasinac on this summer, reducing the significant burden on the wage bill, should they look into signing another left-back:
· If Arsenal manage to sell Kolasinac and free up their wage budget, one player they must certainly not target is Layvin Kurzawa. Despite his agent’s links with Arsenal, his wages will be much higher than Kolasinac despite a free transfer and there have been numerous reports about his attitude issues at PSG.
· Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico is an option the club can look at to replace Kolasinac. He was part of the Ajax team that reached the Champions League semi-finals last year and would be a very reliable competitive option to challenge Tierney. A primarily offensive full-back, albeit solid defensively, would command around £20 million.
· Another player potentially worth looking at is another Norwich full-back in Jamal Lewis. At just 22-years-old, the Northern Ireland international has the potential to develop into a high quality left-back who can compete with Kieran Tierney. If the Canaries were to go down this season, it would make both him and Aarons very affordable options.
Despite being well covered in these full-back areas with depth, we don’t necessarily have the requisite quality to be able to play the intense style of football Mikel Arteta is looking to implement, which enables rotation, and also the personnel to fit this exact system. Let’s hope we address this whenever the window opens.