Arsenal want a new centre-back in January – who should they target?

Martin Macdonald
Martin Macdonald Updated: 19 May 2021 15:43 BST 4 min read
Arsenal want a new centre-back in January – who should they target?

Arsenal are targeting the acquisition of a new centre-back this summer, with Mikel Arteta keen to find a partner for summer signing Gabriel.

On Wednesday, the Athletic reported that Arteta wants a right-sided centre-back to balance the defence alongside the left-footed Brazilian in order to switch his system.


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  • Arteta admitted this week that it is his wish to deploy a 4-3-3 formation, but that the players currently at the club can’t fit into that set up, indicating his need for new arrivals.

    Arsenal’s defence has actually been their strength this campaign as they have the fifth-best defensive record in the league.

    Their problem has been in attack as they have recorded a measly 10 goals in 10 Premier League matches.

    However, it is Arteta’s wish to finalise what will be his back four moving forward before addressing creativity and attacking issues. His belief is that the change from a 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3 will actually benefit the attacking players, but for that switch to happen he needs a right-sided defender.

    Who should Arsenal target?

    Realistic target: Ezequiel Garay

    This one is certainly not a long-term solution as former Valencia defender Garay is now a 34-year-old free agent. A victim of Valencia’s personnel cull in the summer, the Argentine didn’t extend his contract with Los Che after suffering from injury.

    He has now recovered and presents a cheap opportunity for someone to recruit a veteran, solid defender for six months to plug some gaps.

    This one will probably only be looked at from Arteta if the Gunners’ finances don’t put them into a position to spend big on a new centre-back. If the Spaniard decides it can wait until the summer, Garay could be brought in to make the switch to the 4-3-3.

    The problem Arsenal have is that several elite clubs in Europe, notably Liverpool and Barcelona, are currently in the middle of a defensive crisis, looking for a quick fix. Garay has been mentioned as a potential signing for both teams this week.

    STYLEBall playing defender

    Unlikely target: Ben White

    Ben White was one of Leeds’ key players last season on loan from Brighton as he put in a series of stellar performances in the run-in to earn Marcelo Bielsa’s side the holy grail promotion they were looking for.

    Leeds were prepared to break their transfer record to sign him on a permanent deal in the summer, but Brighton naturally wanted to keep hold of him, with manager Graham Potter a fan of his defensive capabilities as well as his talent for playing out from the back.

    These attributes would, of course, be perfect for Arsenal. However, as this would be a Premier League-to-Premier League transfer, the asking price may be too much for the London side at the moment.

    Furthermore, Man Utd, Chelsea, and Tottenham are all reportedly interested in White, and all of those clubs currently represent a more intriguing prospect for the English defender.

    Ben White snapshot:

    Dream target: Dayot Upamecano

    Arteta would bite your hand off if you handed him the opportunity to sign Dayot Upamecano, but sadly for Arsenal the young Frenchman is one of the most sought-after centre-backs in Europe at the moment.

    A riotous performance against Man Utd in the Champions League aside, he has been hugely impressive over the past 18 months for RB Leipzig and has flourished under the guidance of Julian Nagelsmann.

    Nearly every big club in Europe has been linked with a move for Upamecano at some point, including Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Man Utd, Bayern, and Tottenham. Furthermore, he has a release clause that will be triggered in the summer, meaning a mid-season sale is unlikely unless the offer is astronomical.

    Arsenal don’t have the money for him at the moment, and out of that grouping of teams, they would unlikely be his first choice.