Tag Archives: Sokratis

Arsenal will have to wait “until January” before selling central defenders

“Arsenal have 8 centre backs, we need to sell” has been written countless times over the summer.

As it stands, Arsenal have not sold a single one, with only Konstantinos Mavropanos leaving on loan to VfB Stuttgart in Germany – and he was not one of the “Magnificent Eight”.

So what is happening at the club with regards to our central defender situation?

Gabriel Magalhães was signed from Lille over the summer and William Saliba returned from his season long loan at Saint-Étienne, whilst David Luiz signed a new contract.

Arsenal also made the loan deal of Pablo Mari permanent.

A few people have questioned why Arsenal signed Pablo Mari, and then later went on to sign Gabriel, which pushed Mari down to 4th choice centre back – a role Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi could all have played.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

When Arsenal signed Mari, Gabriel was not on the radar as a transfer this summer.

Arsenal would have been scouting the Brazilian, but with a move likely next summer – so Arsenal agreed a deal for Mari back in January with Flamengo.

Gabriel then came available and Edu clearly felt the club could not afford to miss out on such a prestigious talent – even if it meant having one defender too many.

And that is how we came to sign both Gabriel and Mari.

Luiz, Gabriel, Saliba and Mari looked set to make up Arsenal’s defensive options with Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi all no longer required but none have yet exited stage left. The question is why?

A loan deal seemed to be agreed taking Holding to Newcastle, but the transfer quickly died and Holding found himself starting the first game of the season against Fulham.

Despite having 7 central defenders, Arsenal did not have a single one on the bench. This highlights why no one has left. They are all injured.

David Luiz picked up a knock prior to the Fulham game, but has now returned, whilst William Saliba was lacking in match sharpness having not played since March. A few games with the U23s might be needed for the Frenchman.

Those two joined Pablo Mari on the sidelines who is still recovering from damaging his ankle ligaments back in June. Mari is back in full training but it will be a couple of weeks before he is fully fit.

Without Luiz and Saliba in the short term, and Mari in the mid-term, Arsenal did the sensible thing and pulled the rug on the transfer of Holding to Newcastle. He was needed in Islington.

Holding still has a role to play at Arsenal albeit as 4th or 5th choice centre back.

If he remains at Arsenal this season, he will be back up to Luiz, Gabriel, Saliba and Mari; with the potential to replace Luiz as 4th choice next summer. It all comes down to whether he wants to be a bit-part player at Arsenal, or play week in week out at someone like Newcastle.

For now Arsenal can not afford to lose Holding.

Keeping Holding means they can afford to lose Sokratis.

Sokratis is another who is currently injured.

The club said he sustained a “mild strain to right calf in training”, with an of returning to full training “within the next week”.

You feel once he has recovered, his deal to Napoli will go through.

That leaves Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi.

The problem Arsenal face with the pair is they are both injured, with neither expected back in full training until October.

By the time they are “match fit” it will probably be November.

Injuries mean that they are not available to play (obviously) but also unlikely to be sold.

This puts Arsenal in a situation where we have 5 centre backs (Luiz, Gabriel, Saliba, Mari & Holding), and have an additional 2 that are not fully fit, who can not be sold.

So whilst selling Sokratis will take us down to 7 central defenders, only 3 are fit for selection for West Ham and 2 are not going to be full fit for at least another 6 weeks.

This will result in Arsenal not selling Chambers and Mustafi, and potentially not even registering the later.

Arsenal will then look to loan (or sell) the pair in January.

Mustafi, whose contract expires at the end of the season, could end up making a similar move to Cedric Soares.

A team might decide to pick him up on loan for 5 months, with the pre-contract agreement already in place to make the move permanent in June. A move like that would suit Arsenal, Mustafi and the club loaning him.

Likewise, we might see Chambers move out on loan in January, with an option to buy at the end of the season.

A similar deal could be done for Rob Holding if Pablo Mari has returned to full fitness, with Arsenal then having the option of Chambers, Holding or Mavropanos to return from loan and replace Luiz in 2021.

It might feel like Arsenal have a lot of centre backs at the club right now, but the reality is somewhat different.

Holding will stay, Sokratis will be sold, and not much else can realistically happen until January.

Keenos

Arsenal set for busy week of sales

This could be the week we start to see Arsenal make big moves in the transfer market.

So far, the business Arsenal have done has been quietly efficient.

Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari have both had their loan deals made permanent, whilst Willian was also recruited on a free – 3 experienced campaigners.

The club also re-loaned Dani Ceballos and signed Gabriel Magalhaes.

On first impressions, Willian has added some busyness and creativity in the final 3rd, whilst Gabriel put in a commanding performance at centre back.

But Arsenal need to sell.

We still have 18 non-home grown players in the first team squad – and 32 players in it.

This means Arsenal need to sell before they buy, both to bring down the non-home grown quota and to reduce the squad size generally.

Emiliano Martinez will be the first out of the door. His transfer to Aston Villa is all but done (and will probably be completed by the time we hit publish!).

Martinez does not solve the squad problems however, before:

  • He will need to be replaced and;
  • He is home grown

Arsenal have been linked with both David Raya of Brentford and Runar Alex Runarsson from Dijon. Interestingly both keepers have previously worked with Inaki Cana; Arsenal’s goalkeeping coach.

Raya would be the preference as he is home grown having joined Blackburn at 17. Having a non-home grown 2nd choice goalkeeper feels like a waste of a slot, especially as we already have one too many.

This week should also be the week when Lucas Torreira and Sokratis make their moves to Italy.

The 3 players (Torreira, Martinez & Sokratis) should raise close to £50million between them. By the time Arsenal use some of the money to buy a new keeper, it should leave the club with at least £40million cash surplus to make moves.

Sokratis and Torreira leaving will also give Arsenal 1 non-home grown slot – although this could get taken up by Runarsson if he joins.

If we do see a home grown keeper join, expect Arsenal to quickly reinvest those funds into a new midfielder – my gut says Houssem Aouar rather than Thomas Partey.

Further signings will then depend on further departures.

Talk about Edouard from Celtic intensified over the weekend, but you can only see him coming in if Alex Lacazette is sold.

Likewise Thomas Partey.

With Matteo Guendouzi back in first team training, there is a school of thought that he will return to Mikel Arteta’s plans.

He has a friendship with Aouar which could be good for both players, and he would play a similar role to Partey on the right side of a midfield 3 – given the role to drive the ball forward at his feet.

With Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos, Guendouzi, Aouar (potentially), Elneny and Joe Willock, it makes most sense that Partey would replace Matteo.

The 3 likely out this week will not be the only ones to leave Arsenal.

That will still leave Arsenal with a 30 man first team squad once we have signed a replacement goal keeper.

The club will still expect to move on Sead Kolasinac, Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers. That would drop us down to a 27 man squad, and also get us within the non-home grown player limit. 27 is a number Arteta could cope with.

It is going to be a busy week…

Keenos

Two out as Arsenal look to finance move for Samuel Umtiti

Arsenal have been heavily linked with Barcelona central defender Samuel Umtiti in recent weeks. At the moment it feels a bit like the media are putting 2 and 2 together and getting 5.

Umtiti has dropped to 3rd choice centre back for the Spanish giants this season, although this has more to do with a troublesome knee injury than anything else.

Since regaining fitness, Umtiti has found himself behind Gerard Pique and compatriot Clement Lenglet.

With Barcelona chasing Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt, the talk is Barcelona will need to cash in on one of their other 3 defenders to accommodate him.

It is unlikely they will sell Gerard Pique, and the experienced campaigner would unlikely command a high transfer fee. That leaves Umtiti and Lenglet.

Umtiti would command a bigger transfer fee than Lenglet, and would also likely be less happy to sit on the bench behind de Ligt and Pique. All this in the mixing pot has led to the rumours that Umtiti will be off this summer.

The two clubs he has been linked with are Arsenal and Manchester United – the two Premier League sides most in need of a centre back; although Chelsea are surely going to be desperate for one this summer as well.

Umtiti would be a brilliant signing for Arsenal.

25-years-old, he is an athletic centre back who is naturally left sided. You can foresee him fitting in nicely alongside Sokratis in the short term.

The stumbling block however will be the fee.

Umtiti has been touted around at the £60million mark, which would take up the majority of Arsenal’s existing transfer kitty.

So how would Arsenal afford Umtiti whilst leaving enough money to buy a central midfielder, winger and a left back?

The easy answer is that they need to sell to be, and we have to sellable central defenders who could find themselves surplus to requirements were Umtiti to join.

The first is Shokdran Mustasfi.

The German international has had a tough time of late, with every error magnified online.

He is not as bad as some people make out, but he is not the level required for a starting central defender.

Unai Emery has been unable to drop him recently despite poor form. Injuries to Rob Holding, Laurent Koscielny and Kostadinos Mavropanos have left Arsenal with two fit central defenders.

With Sokratis set for a 2 match ban, Mustafi has a part to play in the run in.

Despite his poor recent form, Arsenal would still be able to command a decent fee for Mustafi.

He is not on huge wages (£90,000 per week) and would start for every team outside of the top 6. Were Everton, Wolves, Watford or Leicester to move for him, Arsenal could easily recoup £20million.

Umtiti should be seen as a direct replacement for Mustafi.

If Arsenal made the two deals, it would leave us with Umtiti, Sokratis, Holding, Koscielny and Mavropanos as out defensive options. It would give us strong cover.

The man not mentioned above is Calum Chambers, and he is another that Arsenal should cash in on.

Chambers is currently performing well at Fulham. Despite their struggles, he has been their shining light playing central midfield.

His good form has led for some Arsenal fans to call for his return, but his time at Arsenal is clearly up.

Chambers left on loan to Fulham having found himself behind Sokratis, Mustafi, Holding and Koscielny in the pecking order. He has since made a bit of a name for himself playing in the middle of the park for Fulham.

Were he to return he would still be 5th choice centre back at best (if we signed Umtiti) and would also be behind Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi.

Taking into account how little game time Ainsley Maitland-Niles has had (in the middle of the park or Mohamed Elneny, Chambers would simply not play.

Due to his good form at Fulham, Arsenal would likely receive £20m+ for him.

Any of the promoted sides would snap him up, as well as the lower end Premier League teams. He would be an asset to all of them.

So were Arsenal to sell Chambers and Mustafi, we would raise over £40million, which would be 2/3s of Umtiti’s transfer fee. That would leave plenty more in the pot to improve elsewhere.

Maybe Arsenal should go in with £80million and snap up both Umtiti and Malcolm?

Going to be a big summer for Unai Emery.

Keenos