Such was the fanfare that surrounded the January signings of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, it was easy to forget where Arsenal need strengthening most.
That is not to say that either player won’t make a big contribution, but that our arrivals aren’t intended to shore up a defence that has conceded 36 goals in 27 games. Jonny Evans was targeted to do so but the move fell through and Arsenal continue to leak Premier League goals: we have now shipped more than Burnley, the same number as Brighton and nearly twice as many as the team with the best defensive record, Manchester United with 19.
Per Mertesacker, who has played just 389 minutes of Premier League football since April 2016, is retiring this summer. Question marks reign over Shkodran Mustafi’s future in north London, Rob Holding has struggled to recapture his impressive 16/17 form and Calum Chambers appears to have fragile confidence. Even Laurent Koscielny, who has for so long been an obvious choice in the back-line when fit, is now 32 and Arsenal must therefore plan for life without him.
It is encouraging therefore that Arsenal are looking to address this area five months before the summer transfer window officially opens in July, suggesting we are starting to be proactive off the field.
Arsene Wenger’s target is Napoli defender, Kalidou Koulibaly; the 26 year old Senegal international has been an ever present in the defence for Maurizio Sarri’s side.
Calciomercatoweb reports that Arsenal will make a move ahead of the summer transfer window. Koulibaly has risen to prominence in Naples, after being signed from Belgian outfit, Genk and is now one of the best central defenders in Italy. Back in 2016, he was the subject of interest from Chelsea who didn’t meet his valuation.
Napoli are moving in the right direction under Sarri, but if they win the league this term, he may be open to leaving Stadio San Paolo as Juventus will come out blazing next term.
Koulibaly is known for his passing, tackling, interception and strength – the latter earning him nicknames ‘K2’ and ‘The Wall’ – but what also holds appeal is his versatility. The Saint-Die born defender can comfortably play in any position in a back three or four, whilst also covering defensive midfield.
Such adaptability has seen him amass 35 appearances for his country, scoring four times. Should he continue that form at the World Cup, in which Senegal have been drawn with Poland, Colombia and Japan in a relatively favourable Group H, the current mooted price of £50 million could rise.
Arsenal therefore need to act quickly: if they do, they might just be getting one of the best defenders in Europe.