Like Arsenal, most teams can use a promising right-back added into their squad. And Middlesbrough’s Djed Spence is one of the most-watched defenders heading into the summer transfer window. Reports have the Gunners, Liverpool, & Tottenham all interested in Spence, with likely a handful of other top-flight teams monitoring his status. With that many clubs potentially lining up a transfer bid the deal will come down to how well can each club pitch their case to convince him that they are the right place to continue his development.
Earlier this week I looked at Torino’s right-back Wilfried Singo. With European football back within reach and doubts over Cedric’s future at that level, the right-back to Arsenal rumors should continue well into the summer until a new arrival lands at the Emirates.
Player: Djed Spence (Diop Tehuti Djed-Hotep Spence), 21
Current Club: On loan at Nottingham Forest from Middlesbrough. He initially started out in the Fulham academy in 2016 before making the move to Middlesbrough’s U23 side in 2018. A season and a half later and he was ready for the jump up to the senior side in the Championship. This season Spence has flourished on loan at Nottingham Forest where he has made 37 appearances, scoring three goals and providing five assists.
International: He received his first call up to the England U21 squad this month. They are set to face Andorra and Albania as part of qualification for the 2023 UEFA European U21 Championship. Spence is joined in the camp by Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun who is currently on loan at Middlesbrough.
Position(s): RB & RM. This season at Boro he has split his time between right midfield and right back. The same was the case the previous two seasons with Middlesbrough’s senior and U23 sides. While projected as a right-back option for Arsenal, Spence could factor into a 4-3-3 on the right side of the midfield.
Potential Price: Here’s where it gets interesting. Transfermarkt still has his estimated value at just about $3 million, which seems way too low. Current reports indicate that Boro will be demanding a club-record £20 million. However, even at that rate, I don’t think Arsenal or any of the Premier League top teams looking at Spence will have an issue. Perhaps someone can land him for closer to $10-15m, but either way, it’ll be seen as a good investment with Spence projected to be a top-flight caliber player.
Arsenal Positional Depth:
- Takehiro Tomiyasu (23, starter, contract runs through 2025)
- Cedric Soares (30, backup, contract runs through 2024)
- Hector Bellerin (27, contract runs through 2023, currently on loan at Real Betis)
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles (24, contract runs through 2023, currently on loan at Roma)
- U23s - Jordi Osei-Tutu (23), Zak Swanson (21), Ryan Alebiosu (20), & Brooke Norton-Cuffy (18).
Arsenal Need: Moderate. Again we went over this earlier in the week, but this is in the second-tier of needs this summer. However, Edu and Arteta have shown that they are interested in pursuing a full squad overhaul and youth development. While I do think that Brooke Norton-Cuffy looks like a future first-team player, he isn’t ready for that step up next season. After this season with Lincoln City in League One a loan in the Championship is ideal for evaluating his readiness. So while he may be a future option, Bellerin and Maitland-Niles are technically under contract, and Cedric is useable, I believe Arsenal will have a new right-back in the squad by the end of the summer window.
Final Verdict: Buy. If Arsenal can convince Spence on Arteta’s project, dropping $15-20m on him is a good decision. Tomiyasu and him as the Gunners' two right-backs for the next few seasons look really solid as they target reestablishing themselves as a Champions League level team. Arteta has shown his ability to work with and improve young players. Arsenal is playing attractive football, with a solid defense, and are now seen as a club on the upward trend. If they can lock in 4th place and the Champions League, this could be a mutually beneficial deal.
Arsenal may not have to chase as many prospects as they recently have if they can’t land their ideal targets. The likes of Charlie Patino, Marcelo Flores, Folarin Balogun, and Brooke Norton-Cuffy give Arteta the ability to continue promoting youth players while reinforcing his squad from within.