Last season Arsenal let in 48 goals in the Premier League, which was eighth best. And the sixth best defense in the league over the final 10 matches of the year. Not the numbers Mikel Arteta will want to see at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season, but not horrible considering what he had to work with, the injuries the team suffered during the restart and the crunched schedule.
In preparation for the upcoming season, it’s time start looking ahead. Here’s an overview of the exits and arrivals in Arsenal’s defense, the depth chart at each position, and the level of need for this transfer window.
- Konstantinos Mavropanos - A year long loan to VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. With Arsenal loaded with CB options (once healthy), this allows Mavro the time to play first team football regularly.
- Pablo Marí - The left footed center back was officially signed from Flamengo this summer.
- Cédric Soares - Similarly, the backup right back from Southampton was signed in the summer following a half-season loan.
Starter: Emiliano Martinez (27, 6/22)
Backup: Bernd Leno (28, 6/23)
Academy/Future Prospect: Matt Macey (25, 6/21)
Transfer Window Need: Low. Martinez’s display through the FA Cup Final means that Arsenal can safely start the new campaign with Emiliano as their #1. Leno is returning to full training this month, giving Arsenal one of the best 1-2 keeper duos in the league once Bernd is fully fit. Arteta will have questions to answer this season regarding how to handle the pairing once Leno is back, who is the team’s long term #1, and does Macey have a realistic future with the club or is it time for the U23s to focus on a new young keeper?
Starters: Kieran Tierney (23, 6/23) & Hector Bellerin (25, 6/23)
Backups: Sead Kolasinac (27, 6/22) & Cedric Soares (28, 6/24)
Academy/Future Prospect: Tolaji Bola (22, Unknown) & Zak Swanson (19, Unknown)
Transfer Window Need: Low. With the starting roles set and two capable, although not inspiring backups, Arteta has the pieces he needs to get through 20/21. Maitland-Niles & Saka can both fill in as needed, and the U23s have several promising players on both sides. If any movement happens this window it would likely be an exit for Kolasinac and a new backup left-back brought in.
Starters: David Luiz (33, 6/21), Rob Holding (24, 6/23), & William Saliba (19, 6/24) -considering Mustafi & Mari start the year injured.
Backups: Pablo Mari (26, 6/24), Shkodran Mustafi (28, 6/21), Sokratis (32, 6/21) & Callum Chambers (25, 6/22)
Academy/Future Prospect: Konstantinos Mavropanos (22, 6/24, on loan at VfB Stuttgart), Harry Clarke (19, Unknown) & Zech Medley (19, Unknown, on loan at MVV Maastricht)
Transfer Window Need: Medium. Arsenal have the numbers needed, once everyone is healthy, but the exact personnel likely isn’t what Arteta wants. This will be Luiz and Sokratis final seasons at Arsenal, plus we don’t know how Mari, Mustafi & Chambers will return from their respective injuries. There is a lot of hope for Saliba, but centerback will remain a transfer window focus area for the foreseeable future. Arsenal may be signing Gabriel Magalhães in the coming days.
Without injuries Arsenal would be fairly set in defense and could try to piece together an improved year under Arteta’s leadership given the unique nature of the schedule and off-season for this season. However, there are a lot of questions the squad will have to address in the opening months of the campaign. When will Leno be fully fit to return? And until then is Macey up to the challenge of being the #2 for Premier League matches? How long will it take for Mari and Mustafi to return to form? How well will Saliba adjust in year one with Arsenal?
Resources are limited, so barring sales fans shouldn’t expect more than one or two new defenders. Arteta has shown he can improve struggling players, and given more time we should see Arsenal’s defense improved, even if new additions are limited this summer.