With 5 foot 11 full-backs Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Debuchy filling in at centre-half for eight of Arsenal’s 22 Premier League fixtures already this season, acquiring added cover at centre-back is seen as a major priority at the Emirates this month.
Top centre-halves aren’t exactly in copious supply at the minute but the Gunners do have a bit of money to spend this January – £20million, to be precise, according to The Telegraph.
The report also claims Arsene Wenger will be working ‘day and night’ to land his winter targets, so to ensure the Arsenal boss doesn’t go completely sleepless over the next fortnight, we’ve listed the FIVE centre-backs he should be targeting this month, all available for less than £20m.
So without further ado…
Height: 6 foot 2
Teams: Vitoria, Villarreal
Interested clubs: Arsenal and Manchester United, according to The Daily Star
Likely transfer fee: £15million buy-out clause, Wenger wants to pay £5million (obviously), as reported by The Express
The latest defender to be linked with an Emirates switch is Villarreal’s Gabriel Paulista, who claims the Gunners have already made contact regarding a January move.
The 24 year-old claimed back-to-back Defender of the Year awards in Brazil’s Campeonato Baiano league before moving to El Madrigal in summer 2013, since continuing to impress in La Liga with 3.5 interceptions per match this term – the ninth-best return in the entire division. With him in the side, the Yellow Submarines have kept eleven out of a possible 26 clean sheets since the summer.
Blessed with the pace and technical quality to step-in at left-back when required, as he’s done twice this season already, Paulista’s progressive nature offers the Arsenal defence something a little different, in addition to extra cover at No.3.
Of course, the ultimate issue is price-tag. Arsenal have offered £5million plus Joel Campbell on loan according to The Express, but Villarreal will only sell if the defender’s £15million release clause is met in full.
Position: Centre-back, left-back, right-back
Height: 6 foot 2
Teams: Schalke, Germany
Interested clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, according to The Daily Star
Likely transfer fee: £15million, according to The Express
After impressing as Germany’s ad hoc left-back at the World Cup – no easy feat when you measure in at 6 foot 2 – reports since the summer have consistently linked Benedikt Howedes with a move to the Premier League.
The World Cup winner certainly possesses a plethora of appealing traits in addition to his aforementioned versatility, particularly his height, power, consistency on the ball, this term averaging a 92% pass completion rate in the Champions League, and leadership qualities, having served as Miners skipper since 2011.
Howedes is described as a ‘true defensive all-rounder’ by FIFA’s official website and that’s exactly what he is, offering Arsenal the eclectic depth they’ve lacked this season and genuine competition for Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny’s spots in the first team.
The Express claim Arsenal have already lodged a £15million bid – but convincing Schalke to sell their captain midseason will be a tall order.
Teams: Midtjylland, West Ham, New Zealand
Interested clubs: Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham, according to The Telegraph
Likely transfer fee: £7million, according to Mirror Football
The immediate fate of West Ham contract rebel Winston Reid has generated interest throughout the Premier League, with four clubs reported to be attempting to prize the New Zealand skipper away from Upton Park this January as his current deal enters its final six months.
Reid may not be the most progressive centre-back to ever grace the Emirates, but what he lacks in technical quality is made up for in a masterful understanding of the nuts and bolts of the defensive trade – tackles, headers, clearances and interceptions.
Indeed, the 26 year-old’s individual style isn’t the prettiest but he’s a real warrior, blessed with an awkward, elbowy frame reminiscent of Arsenal favourite Martin Keown. The Gunners need a defender of that category once again, bringing a renewed sense of nastiness and grit to the Arsenal backline.
Of course, that’s providing he isn’t convinced to stay on in East London by Sam Allardyce, and doesn’t sign a pre-contract deal with Tottenham, as reported by The Daily Mail.
Height: 6 foot 1
Teams: FC Wil, FC Basel, Switzerland
Interested clubs: Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham, according to The Daily Star
Likely transfer fee: £9.5million, according to The Metro
One of the finest young defensive prospects in Europe, FC Basel’s Fabian Schar has excelled in the Champions League over the last 18 months, last term averaging 3.3 tackles, 4 interceptions and 6.7 clearances per match, and also impressed in a cameo role for Switzerland at the World Cup in Brazil.
A supremely confident, front-footed defender, Schar’s expansive style – combined with some real body-on-the-line defending – is reminiscent of Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen and often leads to goals, boasting nine in 59 for Bebbi and four in nine for the Swiss national team.
With his contract entering its final six months, a transfer scramble for the 23 year-old’s services is widely expected this January. Arsenal and Spurs have been more consistently linked since the summer, but a large variety of clubs, including Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, are known to be holding a long-term interest in Schar.
Height: 6 foot 5
Teams: Arezzo, Genoa, Inter Milan, Italy
Interested clubs: Borussia Dortmund, according to Football Italia, but Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham remain long-term admirers.
Likely transfer fee: Between €7million and €13million, based on Football Italia report
Andrea Ranocchia is widely regarded as one of the better defenders in Serie A, making it into the division’s Team of the Year for 2010/11, and currently serves as Inter Milan captain.
But with his contract set to expire at the end of the season and the extension reported in October yet to materialise, Football Italia claim he could be sold this month if the right offer comes along – Borussia Dortmund being his most viable suitors.
Ranocchia is an incredibly physical, old-fashioned defender, best famed for his dominance in the air. Italian World Cup winner Marco Materazzi has resultantly described the 26 year-old as his rightful heir in the Inter defence, whilst Javier Zanetti, whom Ranocchia took the captain’s armband from last summer, has also praised his leadership qualities.
An Italian international who’s also featured semi-regularly in the Champions League, Ranocchia certainly addresses the level of quality and experience Arsenal should be looking for this month.
Whether they can hi-jack negotiations with Dortmund however, remains to be seen.