Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League in the 2018-2019 Premier League campaign, and they will need to make major upgrades to their defense this summer.
Only Manchester United and West Ham allowed more goals than Arsenal among top 10 Premier League sides last season, making it clear that the Gunners must make sweeping chances to their back four. Unai Emery will have his work cut out for him, but Arsenal were still just one point behind Tottenham for the Premier League’s final Champions League spot despite all of their question marks on defense.
A new fullback would be nice, but Arsenal’s biggest issues lie in the center of defense. They’ll have some leeway with a legitimate world-class keeper in Bernd Leno on their side, but upgrading the woeful Shkordan Mustafi must be a top priority. Mustafi’s mistakes and lazy defending costed Arsenal badly at the end of the season, and his disasterclass against Crystal Palace will forever live in infamy.
Here are five possible defenders Arsenal could target this summer, though Emery will have to work hard to raise sufficient funds if Arsenal are to make multiple significant upgrades in both attack and defense.
Arsenal have been working hard to sign Saint-Etienne defender William Saliba this summer, and the Gunners seem to be the favorites to land his signature despite plenty of Premier League interest. Manchester United are equally desperate for defensive help and would be their toughest competition for Saliba, but it appears Saliba would prefer to sign with Arsenal, where he’d likely receive more playing time.
Saliba has a world of potential as an 18-year-old center back, and it is rare to find a player that young at the position who is capable of starting on a weekly basis. Arsenal need an immediate upgrade at the position and Saliba may not be the finished product yet, but he might already be an upgrade over Mustafi. That said, there is inherent risk in signing Saliba as a starter at this age, so it’d be best to pair his signing with a more veteran addition to the squad.
Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny are both above-average veteran players, but they will be over 30 next season. Arsenal have to prioritize signing younger players at the center back position, and Saliba is one of the best young defenders available. At a report 30 million euros, Saliba is cheaper than some alternatives but is still a pricy signing after receiving just 1,277 Ligue 1 minutes for Saint-Etienne last season.