Arsenal linked to a young defender - obviously. The Gunners rumored to be interested in a young centerback option? Seemingly endlessly. The club have been in a constant search for the right starting CB duo and young depth that they think can eventually start in the Premier League since Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were at their peak. Since the 2015-16 season which saw Arsenal finish second in the Premier League.
So it comes as no surprise that the connections continue. Late last month we looked at Evan N’Dicka as a potential option. Now, meet Chris Richards. If you are a Bayern Munich fan or follower of the third division in Germany, 3.Liga, you may already know of him. Or the more likely possibility is if you have been following MLS and the US youth national sides.
Who is Chris Richards?
Richards is a 20-year-old defender who has split his time this season between centerback and right back. Prior to this year however, he played almost exclusively in the center. The Birmingham, Alabama native came up through arguably MLS’ best academy system in FC Dallas that has been producing young players moving to top flights for years. Richards moved up to the Dallas first team in 2018 before joining Bayern on loan just a few months later.
After a six month loan, the Germany champions bought Richards for $1.21 million. He has since moved up from their U19 side to their II team in 3.Liga. He has featured 22 times, scoring twice, and was expected to be a part of the US’ Olympic team this summer. Now, German outlet Bild is stating that two London based Premier League sides are interested in Richards.
Would the transfer make sense for Arsenal?
As we’ve discussed previously the club needs to ask some serious questions regarding it’s current centerback depth chart and how many players fit into Mikel Arteta’s long term plans. David Luiz, Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Marí, Rob Holding, Konstantinos Mavropanos & Calum Chambers - and the incoming William Saliba. You’d think at least two of those eight are gone whenever the transfer market resumes, but Richards wouldn’t be expected to be a starter immediately.
He is currently valued at just $2.2, so he is easily affordable for the club. If just one current CB moved on it would pay for the transfer - for example, Chambers (~20m), Mavropanos ($3m), & Mustafi ($16m). Not that anyone expects Calum to fetch $20m, or Bayern to let a young defensive prospect go for under $3m, but you get the picture.
It would be a low-risk move for a player who could develop into a starter in the next few years. And how many of the current eight CBs in that list do you want starting at Arsenal two or three years from now?
Would the transfer make sense for the player?
This is the tougher sell. Richards went from an MLS academy and the U19 USMNT to being on the Bayern Munich books, is Arsenal really that enticing at the moment? The Premier League is attractive, Arsenal are a big club and play in a massive world city. But the Bundesliga, Bayern & Munich offer the same. Richards already has a path towards playing for a title winning side and in the Champions League - if he can beat out the competitive in the years to come. But fellow MLS-alumni Alphonso Davies has shown the way to break into Bayern at a young age.
Richards isn’t getting Benjamin Pavard’s spot anytime soon, but might the shift to right-back for the 2nd squad this season be a chance to become the backup next year? Álvaro Odriozola is on loan from Real Madrid, which could present an opportunity. The only way the transfer makes sense for the player is if Arsenal were to increase his wages and Mikel Arteta could convince him that he is in the new manager’s plans.
Verdict. Unlikely. Richards has the chance to develop into a top-class player in the Bayern system and potentially start for one of the best sides in Europe. That isn’t an easy path, but he has that in front of him at the moment.
A move to Arsenal would be a restart in his development and joining a side which has been in defensive motion for years. Arteta would need to sell the move to Richards. But for the potential price and potential value, Chris Richards would be a great replacement in the Arsenal depth chart for 2020-21 and a hopeful starter one day. Of course, I wouldn’t mind a promising USMNT player suiting up for the Gunners.