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Transfer Rumor: Arsenal interested in Ajax right-back

Could the Gunners land another talented fullback as they chase down European competition?

Ajax v FC Twente - Dutch Eredivisie Photo by Peter Lous/BSR Agency/Getty Images

When Cedric was announced as a new Arsenal player most fans weren’t thrilled. He spent part of that half-season loan injured, so it was a surprise when Arsenal offered him a long-term contract. His time at the Emirates has played out close to expectation. He’s had some really solid matches at right-back, while also having moments of struggle that remind everyone why he isn’t the answer to returning to the top four.

Since then, Arsenal has sent Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles out on loan, sold Calum Chambers, and brought in the relatively unknown, but outstanding, Takehiro Tomiyasu to take over as the starter. Now as transfer attention turns towards the summer, the opportunity seems to be ready for a shift away from Cedric and the arrival of a new right-back. Enter a talented fullback who will have his pick of clubs when the transfer window opens.

Player: Noussair Mazraoui, 24

Current Club: He has been with the Ajax system since he was under 10 years old. Mazraoui moved up from the Ajax 21s to the senior team in 2018. Since then he’s played in 100+ league matches, 35 in the Champions League while helping Ajax win two Dutch titles and two domestic Cups.

International: Mazraoui made his full international debut in 2018 with Morocco in the AFCON qualifiers. To date, he has made 12 appearances for this national team, but his last match for Morocco came in November 2020. Drama with manager Vahid Halilhodzic & the Royal Moroccan Football Federation has led to many players, including Mazraoui & Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech, being forced out of their AFCON squad.

Position(s): Right-back. While he has played once or twice in another defensive position for Ajax a few seasons ago, Mazraoui is a right-back. This year he has five goals and three assists from 26 matches.

Potential Price: He has an estimated value of around $22 million by Transfermarkt. His value has steadily grown from around $10 million two years ago. However, having remained at Ajax this January window, he will be able to sign on a free in the summer with his contract expiring in June.

Arsenal Positional Depth:

  • Takehiro Tomiyasu (23, starter, contract runs through 2025)
  • Cedric (30, backup, contract runs through 2024)
  • Zak Swanson (21, current U23 player)

Arsenal Need: Moderate. While it’s not the summer’s primary objective, it is on the to-do list. Arsenal have two experienced fullbacks under contract, a few academy options, and even Hector Bellerin out on loan, but he seems satisfied with his switch to Spanish football. However, Cedric isn’t the player Mikel Arteta wants as the complement to Tomiyasu. Ideally, the club can sell Cedric this summer (that’s right Arsenal actually selling a player) and bring in an under-25 right-back similar to what they did with Nuno Tavares. If Arsenal makes it back into Europe next season they will need two players at each position ready to start.

Final Verdict: I would imagine the desire is high to make this deal on Arsenal’s side. If they can land a product of the Ajax system, with Champions League experience, and still with room to develop Arteta and Edu would be pleased. Potentially getting him on a free even better. But therein lies the problem. Mazraoui will have his pick of numerous top clubs this summer. He will get paid either way, so which club offers him enough playing time and the right challenge to spend what could be the best 4-5 years of his career. Can Arsenal really make the case to him that he will get equal time with Tomiyasu? If they can it’s great for the squad and fans heading into next season. But it’s more likely that they have to find Cedric’s replacement a bit farther down the experience ladder.