A case for the defence: The top performers Arsenal should be looking at this summer

Quite how well Arsenal will finish this season remains to be seen but what remains clear is that they will need to do some business in the summer to ensure they are in a position to make progress next year.

The most pressing need seems to be in defence, where the decline in performance in recent years has been most marked.

In fact, this season, Arsenal have conceded more goals than any other team in the top seven (41) and more than twice the number of goals conceded by league leaders Manchester City (20).

By way of comparison, Arsenal conceded 44 goals in 2016/17, 36 in 2015/16, and the same again in 2014/15.

Clearly, it’s been a particularly bad year at the back for the Gunners and a change in personnel is much yearned-for among fans and pundits alike.

While the players are not exclusively to blame for this season’s apparent aberration (after all, both Burnley and Brighton have conceded fewer goals than Arsenal and their players are not as good) an injection of quality is unlikely to worsen the situation.

Using statistics from Squawka and whoscored.com, I had a gander around the top five leagues in Europe to see who has been pulling up trees in defence this season, and who might make a summer target for the Gunners in their bid to sure things up.


If we accept that Rob Holding and Callum Chambers are still a little short of a first-term berth, Per Mertesacker is moving onto the coaching staff from May, and that January arrival Stavros Mavropanos will more than likely go out on loan next season, we have space enough for at least one addition to the back line.

The top-performing defender in Europe at the moment (March 18) is Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi and, therefore, it is probably safe to rule him out of a summer approach, barring a quite spectacular fallout with coach Pep Guardiola.

Also among the top 10 are Jan Vertonghen (Spurs), Thiago Silva (PSG), Jordi Alba (Barcelona) and Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea). If we are being realistic, most, if not all, of these players are going to be beyond us, for one reason or another.

That leaves us therefore, with Aleksandr Kalorov (Roma), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Naldo (Shalke), Milan Skriniar (Inter), and Stefan de Vrij (Lazio), among the top defenders in Europe’s five most prominent leagues.

Kolarov is 32 and hardly likely to be a long-term solution to our centre back problems, with Shalke’s Naldo, aged 35, in the same bracket.

That leaves Senegalese Koulibaly (26), Slovak Skriniar (23) and Dutchman de Vrij (26) as viable options among the top names in the game at the moment.

According to whoscore.com, Koulibaly has averaged 1.9 tackles per game, 1.3 interceptions, and 3.4 clearances and 0.6 blocks per game this season.

Skriniar has 2.3 tackles, one interception, 4.8 clearances, and 0.7 blocks; and de Vrij has one tackle, 1.8 interceptions, 4.3 clearances, and 0.7 blocks per game.

I don’t profess to know how Arsene Wenger is preparing for his summer transfers or, indeed, if he intends to stay beyond June, but it seems there are, at the very least, a few decent options out there for him to consider.

The Frenchman has rarely gone for the most obvious candidates over the years but it will be interesting to see if Sven Mislintat has any influence over who comes and goes at the club in the months ahead.

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