Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Joao Cancelo signs, Rob Holding out, Tierney decision - Dream Arsenal defence after £70m signings

The transfer window may not be officially open yet, but that doesn’t mean Arsenal’s work hasn’t already begun. Edu was able to build Mikel Arteta a top-quality squad courtesy of around £125million investment last summer, and something even bigger could be on the cards this time around.

The Gunners will be playing Champions League football for the first time since 2017, and as a result Arteta will need a far deeper squad. One of the areas they look set to strengthen is their defence.

William Saliba had a superb season, but once he struggled with a back injury, the backline began to falter. There is also plenty of uncertainty around several other members of the Gunners’ rear guard. As a result here football.london takes a look at how Arsenal’s defence could look by the time September 2nd comes around.

Dream defence

The place to start with the Arsenal backline is the future of William Saliba. football.london understands the French international has verbally agreed a four-year contract extension at the Emirates which is great news. Alongside Gabriel, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ben White, Saliba looks set to form the nucleus of a back four that could last for years at the Emirates. Beyond them though there is a need for a bit more depth.


Many would argue that the night when Saliba got injured against Sporting CP was the beginning of the end for Arsenal’s title hopes last season. The issue was of course compounded by the fact that Takehiro Tomiyasu suffered a season-ending knee injury in the same game, but after that match the Gunners never really looked the same.

Rob Holding struggled after being thrown into the starting XI and was particularly exposed in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City. He was eventually replaced in the line up by Jakub Kiwor, but Arsenal will be keen to bring in a better alternative over the summer with reports suggesting that they could be open to offers for Holding.

There is an argument to be had that Tomiyasu or White could be moved central in the event of future injuries. Arteta did this in the final two games of last season, so it’s clearly an option that’s on the table. Presuming that’s the avenue they choose to go down, then a versatile full back may be the option they go for.

This could be even more necessary if Kieran Tierney ends up leaving. The Scottish international was left out of the starting XI even when both Zinchenko and Tomiyasu were injured in the final two games of last season, and it seems Arteta has moved on from him tactically. The main reason for this is his inability to invert to the levels that Zinchenko managed last season.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise to see Arsenal linked to some versatile defenders. Timothy Castagne of Leicester has been heavily rumoured in the past couple of days and could come at a reasonable fee after the Foxes’ relegation. Ivan Fresneda of Real Valladolid is also a player that football.london understands is on the Gunners’ radar. If we’re looking at dream additions though, it’s hard to argue against the idea of Joao Cancelo coming in. The Portuguese international could cost in the region of £70million, but there are not many defenders in world football who are better than him on the ball. He would be a perfect fit into Arteta’s defensive options.

Dream Arsenal defenders next season – Saliba, Gabriel, Tomiyasu, White, Kiwior, Zinchenko, Cancelo.

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