FIVE centre back options to replace Rob Holding at Arsenal

Last week we discussed the profile of new defender Arsenal need to buy in the summer.

  • Better than Holding, but happy to be 2nd choice
  • Pacey, so we do not have to defend deeper
  • Comfortable on the ball
  • Less than £30million
  • Provide an option at right back

Jerry St. Juste

Often when a player has a stand-out game against a side, it leads fans of that club to say “we should sign him”. And Jerry St. Juste certainlly falls into that category.

I am sure before we played Sporting very few had heard of him, and no one would have been calling for the uncapped Dutchman to be an Arsenal summer signing. But that performance put him on many peoples radar.

Buying a player off one or two views rarely works – Freddie Ljungberg signed after one performance v England, but it was a different world then.

Arsenal scouts would have already been watching St. Juste. And his performance against us would have just made them watch him closer.

Against Arsenal, he played on the right hand side of a back three, and was a consistent attacking threat. But that is the first concern.

Where he plays for Sporting makes me think he would be better as cover for Ben White as an inverted full-back than playing central in a two. Very rarely did we test his defensive capabilities.

Saliba is often left one-on-one to deal with his opposing striker. St. Juste always has a man inside him covering mistakes. It is very different playing in a 2 instead of a 3.

You also have to question why someone with such obvious talent, and plenty of pace and power, is playing in Portugal at 26 and has not yet played for his country – he was last called up to the Netherlands team in 2001 but failed to play. And the answer to that is injury.

St. Juste only joined Sporting in the summer of 2022 and is already out injured for his 4th period this season. Each time he has missed games due to “muscle problems”, according to Transfermarkt.

He has missed 15 games and counting for Sporting this season. Last year he missed 21 games for Mainz in two seperate 2-month long injuries.

Injuries also saw him miss a lot of games for Feyenoord, and before that Heerenveen.

Considering Saliba’s back conerns, and Tomiyasu’s injury troubles over the last 2 seasons, signing someone with such a checkered injury history would be a huge risk.

I think St. Juste certainly fits the profile of player we need. But those injuries are a huge concern.

He will probably be top of a lot of Arsenal’s fans list, but I do not think he will be top of Edu’s.

Marc Guéhi

The former Chelsea academy player has been a consistent performer for the inconsistent Crystal Palace this season.

John Barnes recently said that Guehi is be someone that Arsenal should be looking to sign.

Barnes said “He is English, he is young with good technical ability on the ball and he is quick, so he’s a modern centre-back.”

Guehi certainly ticks all the boxes needed to be an Arsenal centre back. And at 22 he is just completing his 2nd full season in the Premier League. But there are some concerns.

2024 has a European Championships at the end of if. Guehi is one of a clutch of central defenders that has an outisde chance of making Gareth Southgate’s squad – alongside fellow former Chelsea lad Fikayo Tomori.

In 2022, he was capped 3 times for England. Southgate then omitted both Guehi and Tomori from his World Cup squad – opting instead for Eric Dier and Conor Coady.

Guehi was in the squad for the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying matches against Italy and Ukraine in March this year, but warmed the bench in both games. Tomori was left in Italy.

If Guehi has hopes of being in the England squad for the Euros, he needs to be playing regularly. And with William Saliba and Gabriel ahead him, he will not get the game time.

If Tomori is playing week in week out for Milan, whilst Guehi is sitting on our bench, the decision for Southgate is easy.

Palace signed Guehi for £18million in 2021. With 3 years left on his contract, they will not sell cheap. It will be £40m+.

Will Arsenal spend £40million+ on a central defender this summer? I am not sure.

We are already looking to spend £100m+ on a central midfielder (Declan Rice) and a winger. We do not have a bottomless money pot, so will be restriced as to what we spend on a winger and centre back. I would be surprised if we spend northwards of £30m on either of those two positions. And that would rule out Guehi.

I imagine Guehi’s destination will end up being Tottenham.

He would walk into their defence and the step up will be enough to get him on the plan to Germany.

I think Guehi is a fantastic player. I am just not sure he will do that “3rd choice centre back” role.

Josip Sutalo

Josko Gvardiol is the jewel in the Croatian defences crown. Expect him to move for big, big money this summer.

I do not expect us to be in the race for Gvardiol. He has Manchester City written all over him. But his international teammate Josip Sutalo is certainly one to look at.

At 23-years-old, he has become a regular for Zagreb this season. His form has also seen him selected to partner Gvardiol for his country.

Sutalo reminds me of a young John Stones.

Very comfortable with the ball at his feet, he trusts his ability on the ball under pressure. Like Stones this can lead him to occasionally get into trouble whilst playing out.

Whilst he is 6ft 3in, he does not always impose his height on the opposing striker, and can occassionaly look lightweight. He certainly needs to fill out his gangly frame. Again, this is not unlike John Stones in his Everton days.

Like Stones, Sutalo has the skills to also cover at right back,

With his reading of the game and passing, Sutalo has a lot of natural attributes that you would want in a defender. Being 2nd choice would give Arteta and his team the time to work on him.

With a reported £20million release clause, it is a deal Arsenal could make happen very easy.

Sutalo might not be the big name some Arsenal fans call for, but he is in the sort of market we work in. Making stars, not buying them.

Ben White / Takehiro Tomiyasu / Reuell Walters

Before this season begun, the plan would have been for Ben White to and William Saliba to battle it out on the right hand side of the defence.

White would have been expected to play a duel role – cover for Saliba and Takhiro Tomiyasu. We then still had Cedric Soares as additional cover.

No one could have predicted that White would become one of the best right backs in the league and – even when Tomiyasu would regain fitness – would be our first choice right back.

This was not a huge issue in January as it meant that if Saliba got injured, the option would still be there to move White centrally and play Tomiyasu full-back.

What Arsenal could not manage is two out of the three of them getting injured long term. And that is what happened with Saliba and Tomiyasu.

Once Cedric was sent to Fulham, the only other right back option at the club was Reuell Walters; and whilst some fans called for him to start, with White going to right back, Arteta opted for Holding.

Walters only began training with the first team this season, and only turned 18 in the summer. It would have been a big call to put him in.

But next season is different.

Walters would have been training with the senior side for 12 months, and he has made huge improvements since joining the first team training squad.

That then gives us the option to play White at centre back once more, with Tomiyasu coming in at right back. And then if we get to a situation where Tomiyasu and Saliba (or White) are injured once more, Walters can be called upon.

Walters suits the hybrid system Arteta plays – capable of playing right back and more centrally. He has the pace and power needed to not look like a boy playing a mans game, and is also comfortable on the ball.

Perhaps not ready this season, Walters may well be considered next season.

Declan Rice

For a long time, many have said Declan Rice is a central defender playing in midfield.

I expect Arsenal to spend big on him this summer. He will be the man to compete with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka in their respective positions.

If we sign Rice, he not only provides an option at 6 and 8, but also at centre back.

He certainly has the physicality and defensive awareness to play there. And he would be another option alongside the White / Tomiyasu / Walters trio.

But it would be a concern if we bought Rice and expected him to be 3rd choice centre back, as well as compete with Xhaka and Partey in the middle.

We would risk having too many players who “can play centre back if needed” but no one whose main job it is to be back up to Saliba.

You can certainlty see Rice or White dropping into centre back if needed. But I think we need to buy a specialist.

My favourite to replace Holding at Arsenal? The Croation John Stones. Josip Sutalo.



2 thoughts on “FIVE centre back options to replace Rob Holding at Arsenal

  1. Osofuye Odunayo Damilola

    Succinct analysis.
    Apt conclusion.
    Couldn’t agree less!
    Having the both of Josip Sutalo and Declan Rice would surely fix Arsenal’s defense for the next 3 seasons, honestly. It will also give our academy defensive stalwarts like Walters, Sousa, Robinson and Bradley enough time and opportunity to mature and eased into the first team.


  2. Pingback: ≫ CINCO opciones de defensa central para reemplazar a Rob Holding en el Arsenal

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