The situation at the Emirates has been a fluid one for some time now. Since Arteta’s introduction, some level of stability has returned; however, the consensus amongst fans and ownership alike is largely one of underwhelmed frustration. With no Champions League for several seasons and a stuttering performance in the 19/20 season, a noticeable deficiency has been felt in defence.
Given the current team development news, this isn’t necessarily set to be a long-term issue – with the right transfers, Arsenal can change their fortunes and match their attacking prowess with substantial improvement at the back.
Bukayo Saka has made quite the impact since graduating from Arsenal’s youth academy. His presence was most felt in the offensive half, hitting double figures in assists on the season; however, recent comments from him have circled around wanting to claim the wing role after he finishes filling in at left-back. Given the benefits of his presence on the team, it’s no surprise that Arsenal has been linked to Leipzig’s brightest defensive talent Upamecano yet again as an ample replacement were Saka to migrate forward. It opens the possibility of a more cohesive three-man defensive line to suit Upamecano’s more central role.
This isn’t necessarily new news for Arsenal fans. Upamecano has been making headlines in the Bundesliga since breaking into the Leipzig side in the 2016/17 season – with teammate Timo Werner likening him to Bayern Munich stalwart Jerome Boateng in his ability – despite only being 21 years old. Leipzig’s own rise to power has seen them become a title contender in the Bundesliga betting in only a few years. While they possess a formidable front line, it’s a fluid and agile defensive force – spearheaded by the young Frenchman – which has made their high-press (known as Gegenpress) style so effective against most of the German top flight.
That high potential will come with a hefty price tag to match. While Arsenal was warded off by a £72 million pricing last year, their hand might be forced by another potential departure in the Gunners backline.
David Luiz has been heavily implied to be leaving this summer at the end of his loan – whether Arteta, therefore, opts to fill a gap in his defensive line, either in Saka moving upfield or Luiz leaving altogether, the young starlet makes for interesting speculation.
In Good Company
Unsurprisingly, Upamecano is not alone in falling into Arsenal’s crosshairs. Defenders aplenty, the rumour mill has featured several more young, promising and possibly more affordable players.
Along with star forward Moussa Dembele, Arsenal have shown some interest in Lille’s defender Gabriel Magalhaes. Highly-rated, but far more affordable at £27 million, he could be a part of what looks to be a significant reshuffle this summer, with the club open to offers for Mustafi, Holding and Sokratis, on top of Luiz’ contract expiration. After Everton failed to agree on a fee for Magalhaes recently, the opening is likely approaching for a comprehensive new offer from North London.
These are not the only rumoured targets; however, given their potential, we can presume that Arteta will take these options seriously, given the genuine deficiencies in the existing backline. With a long-overdue return to the pantheon of English football, change needs to come soon – the Champions League spot and fight for the title are still frustratingly out of reach.