Jonny Evans had been a supposed Arsenal target for 18 months. When you say his name, a lot of Arsenal fans laugh. Why would we want a Manchester United reject who currently plays for WBA?
But then Manchester City, until recently, were also heavily linked with them. So clearly he is a player that, even if some fans do not rate, the likes of Pep Guardiola does.
So why are Arsenal targeting the Northern Irishman?
Arsenal need a centre back: with Per Mertesacker set to leave on a free transfer, Laurent Koscielny having ongoing injury issues, and Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos all still young and inexperienced, Arsenal need an experienced centre back to partner Shkodran Mustafi.
Evans is Premier League proven: Manchester City are about to spend £57m on Aymeric Laporte. As they have shown over the years, it is very easy to spend a lot of money on a centre back and get it wrong (John Stones – £47.5m, Nicolas Otamendi – £32m, Eliaquim Mangala – £40m, Matija Nastasic – £12m , Stefan Savic – £6m). Buying foreign, buying potential, is a big risk. Arguably their two best centre backs in recent years were their cheapest – Vincent Kompany (£6.7m) and Martín Demichelis (£3.5m).
With Jonny Evans, Arsenal are signing a player with over 250 Premier League appearances, 130 of which have been for Manchester United, the rest for WBA – so he has the right mix of being involved in successful teams and being a battle hardened centre back.
Age: John Stones was a big risk for Manchester City due to his lack of experience. Arsenal have the likes of Calum chambers, Rob Holding and the new Greek lad Mavropanos. They have youthful talent covered, but with Per going, the experience is dramatically reduced.
I was surprised that Evans was just 30 years old. I thought he was a lot older than that. He is a player who has looked after himself and does not have a poor injury record. He could have another 5 / 6 years at the top level.
Leadership: We have lacked a good leader for a decade. Jonny Evans is captain of WBA and Northern Ireland.
Not only is he a captain, he is also an organiser. Often when Koscielny and Mustafi play together, the centre of the defence looks lost, disorganised. Evans is a director, someone who his centre back partner and the full backs can take their lead from.
Style of play: It perhaps go’s against Jonny Evans that he is very much a British centre back. He is no nonsense. But is that not what we have missed recently? Someone who can put their head in, who knows when to clear their lines, a simplistic player who sees defending as his main job.
But Evans can also play. Occasionally at Manchester United he moved into central midfield. He is not just a thug like Ryan Shawcross, he can actually play a bit as well.
Winner: Johnny Evans has 3 Premier League winners medals. In the 2012/13 season, with Nemanja Vidic injured, Evans was Rio Ferdinand’s partner at the back, as Manchester United won the league comfortably.
Home grown: It might not seem like much, but Premier League rules dictate you can only have 17 foreign players in your squad. Evans, having been at Manchester United since he 9, is home grown. This then frees up a foreign based squad position for players in alternative positions.
Price: Finally, his price. This is where you all moan.
The fact is, Arsenal do not have a bottomless pit of money like Manchester City. We can not afford to spend £300m just on centre backs in the hope 2 of them make it. Evans is just £10m. If WBA get relegated, he reportedly has a £3m release clause.
So you are getting a Premier League proven centre back, a leader, a winner, for £10m. When yo use Virgil van Dijk going for £75m, Arsenal would be getting a steal for Evans. And at £3m, it would be a no brainer in the summer.
If you want a no nonsense, Premier League experienced defender, who would fit in straight away, you could do a lot worse than Evans for £10m.
Yes, Arsenal could target a Raphael Varane or Samuel Umtiti, or whichever centre back everyone that plays FIFA is currently using, but spending big does not guarantee you are getting what you pay for – as seen by Manchester City’s exploits in the central defence market.
Evans would be a reliable, experienced centre back to put alongside Mustafi.