I was trying to write a blog on what central defender Arsenal should target in the summer.
Kalidou Koulibaly has been many peoples long term favourite to join the club. He is also a favourite of fans of Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. He will not join Arsenal.
Reality is he is coming up to 27-years-old and is at his peak – both in ability terms and financially.
In December, Napoli confirmed that they had rejected a £95million bid from Manchester United for the defender. It should be noted that their owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is a film producer and has a reputation for fabricating stories.
Arsenal would be silly to spend the bulk of their transfer fund on a single central defender – no matter how good he is. This summer we need to sign a defender, a left back, a central midfielder and at least one attacking players – winger / forward. If we go all in on Koulibaly we will not have much left.
What we need to do is focus on signing the next Koulibaly.
This means going for someone a little less established. A bit more of a risk. A younger player. Think a 22-year-old Koulibaly when he joined Napoli; or a Virgil van Dijk-type signing when he joined Southampton for £13million.
What we will not be doing is buying the established Koulibaly or van Dijk.
So I set myself a task of looking for central defenders who were aged under 25-years-old. Players who are not fully establish as world beaters, but could certainly become one.
First on the list was AC Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli.
The Italian central defender is everything an Italian central defender should be. Just 24-years-old and already captain of AC Milan, he is the future of the Italian defence. However this would also mean that Juventus would also see him as their future. It is surely only a matter of time until they make their move to replace the ageing Andrea Barzagli (37) and Giorgio Chiellini (34).
Romagnoli will be top of their list. And like with Bayern Munich in Germany, Italian’s just do not turn down Juventus.
Like Romagnoli, José Giménez at Atletico Madrid is a fabulous player but also already too well establish. His team mate Lucas Hernandez is more likely and apparently wants out at Madrid’s second club.
I would be worried about whether Hernandez is physical enough for the Premier League. He reminds me of Calum Chambers. Not quite bit enough to play in the middle, not quite athletic enough to play at left back.
The next two fairly obvious names to look at were Matthijs de Ligt and Dayot Upamecano.
Both are clearly the two best teenage centre backs on the planet at the moment. And that is the problem.
They are superstars in waiting, which means they come with a press tag to represent their potential. De Ligt has already been linked with Barcelona, and Upamecano linked with Bayern Munich. There would be a lot of competition for the pair which would probably end up pricing Arsenal out. Upamecano perhaps the more realistic.
What would perhaps be a more realistic deal would be targeting Upamecano’s team mate at RB Leipzeg – Ibrahima Konaté.
A year younger than his fellow Frenchman, Konate is less polished and less experienced but his price tag would be more reasonable. Would he be ready to start week in week out however?
I then came across who I think would be the ideal candidate. Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen.
Arsenal were interested a then-15-year-old Christensen way back in 2012. He chose Chelsea.
He made his debut at 18-years-old before joining the mass ranks of Chelsea loanees for the 2015/16 season.
Unlike the other 30-odd players out on loan, Christensen quickly established himself as a regular at Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga.
Playing 31 league games in his first season, he won Mönchengladbach’s Player of the Year. Chelsea decided not to break the two-year loan deal and left him in Germany for a second season, where he impressed again.
He returned at 21-years-old with over 80 first team games in Germany under his belt. He looked ready for the Premier League.
2017/18 was a fruitful first season for Christensen with Chelsea.
He signed a new four-and-half-year deal with Chelsea running until 2022, after establishing himself in the first team and was named Chelsea’s Young Player of the Year.
Christensen made 40 appearances for the Blues in 2017/18 before a back injury ruled him out of the FA Cup Final.
This season Christensen has made just 2 starts in the Premier League for Chelsea – with Maurizio Sarri preferring Antonio Rüdiger and David Luiz; both of whom have played 25 out of the 26 league games so far.
The Danish international has seemingly fallen out with the Chelsea manager, including an incident now known as pee-gate.
If Sarri remains at Chelsea next year, he is unlikely to stay. And even if the Italian manager leaves, Christensen might feel it is time to seek first team football elsewhere.
Arsenal would be signing a 23-year-old central defender with 3 full seasons of top flight football under his belt in both Germany and – perhaps more crucially – in England.
He is Premier League proven and was once labelled by Antonio Conte as the present and future of Chelsea:
“This player is a player for the present for Chelsea, and for Chelsea’s future for 10 or 12 years. He can also become the captain of this team in the future.”
With both Chelsea likely to want him out, and the player himself wanting to leave, he could be available for less than £35million, which would easily fit into Arsenal’s budget.
He would be able to stay in London and would walk straight into Arsenal’s first XI alongside Sokratis.
I am going to stick my flag to wall. Put a name out there. Andreas Christensen is the central defender I want Arsenal to sign this summer.