Mikel Arteta’s injury suffered in the away trip to Besiktas on Tuesday night highlighted an urgency for Arsene Wenger to invest in his squad in these final days of the transfer window. If Arsenal lacked quality prior to the Spaniard’s injury, that situation has now become critical, with Arteta limping out of the Ataturk Stadium in a protective boot.
But that need to invest in the midfield is equally as important at centre-back. Calum Chambers was by far Arsenal’s best player in Turkey in midweek, playing alongside Laurent Koscielny at centre-back in the absence of Per Mertesacker. But having seen just over twenty Premier League games prior to this season, and all at right-back, now isn’t the time for Wenger to place all his faith in a 19-year-old.
Even ahead of Thomas Vermaelen’s sale to Barcelona, Arsenal were short of quality at centre-back. What is even more alarming is that there is little to nothing in the way of adequate cover coming up through the academy. Arsenal’s centre-back options last season were very much limited to Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, and Bacary Sagna. As of now, that situation hasn’t improved, with the latter two departing and only Chambers arriving from Southampton.
The positive is that the club do appear to be on the hunt for another centre-back this summer. Kostas Manolas has been strongly suggested as the next defensive recruit at the Emirates, but Winston Reid’s name has also been thrown into the mix.
The West Ham centre-back was part of an at times good defensive unit last season, and Arsenal are said to be looking to take advantage of Reid’s current contract situation, with his deal running out at the end of the season.
The only drawback is Reid’s inexperience in European football, but with Mertesacker and Koscielny the first-choice pairing, much of Reid’s contribution is expected to be in domestic play. He’s aggressive, will do a lot to combat the physicality of opponents, and is unlikely to kick up too much of a fuss with regards to being third or fourth choice at the club.
In comparison to Manolas, it’s easy to see why fans would deem the Greek international an attractive option. He stood out as one of the better performers for his country at the World Cup, and has experience at the highest level of club football with Olympiakos. Moreover, at 23, he’s exactly what Arsenal need as a means to see their central defensive unit get younger. With Mertesacker turning 30 in September, Manolas would offer something long term if he were to fulfil his potential at the club. Chambers, even at this early stage, looks certain to feature heavily for the club at centre-back in the coming years.
But Arsenal are reportedly not the lone runners in the race for Manolas, with interest coming from Italy too. Even with the financial might available to Wenger, it’s likely he’ll still refrain from entering into a bidding war, especially if he feels another option is available elsewhere.
Reid’s Premier League experience and leadership qualities would make him a good addition at Arsenal. It’s always been a case of adding depth, rather than identifying a starting centre-back. Reid should come relatively cheap, with plenty of resources left to be invested in the problem position of defensive midfield.