Arsenal have had an initial bid of €30M for Lisandro Martinez rejected by Ajax, according to David Ornstein. The left-centerback is a “priority” target for Mikel Arteta this summer, and the expectation is that the Gunners will come back with an improved offer to hopefully secure the transfer. The 24-year old, who reportedly fancies a move to the Emirates, would round out Mikel Arteta’s centerback stable nicely.
Buying Martinez would make Arsenal two-deep at both centerback spots — Gabriel Magalhaes and Martinez on the left, Ben White and William Saliba on the right. Martinez is a particularly attractive target because he can also provide cover at left back, much in the way that Ben White can deputize at right back and Takehiro Tomiyasu can shift to RCB if needed. And to be fair to Kieran Tierney, he’s positionally flexible as well; the Scotsman can play LCB, although that’s not likely to happen at Arsenal.
Although Gabriel and Kieran Tierney look to be solid starters on the left side of the Arsenal defense, the depth chart needs filling in and not necessarily with straight backups. Competition is good. Top clubs need multiple stater-caliber players at as many positions as possible because when you’re playing two or three games in a little more than a week’s time across different competitions, you have to rotate the squad. You need to be able to do that without too much of a drop in quality. And injuries are inevitable. Arsenal have seen firsthand what not having sufficient depth can do to results.
I’ll admit — I haven’t seen much of Martinez. The Eredivisie isn’t in my regular football rotation. There are only so many hours in a day one can devote to football. Highlight videos can provide a distorted picture, but this seems a good place to start. Martinez shut down Erling Haaland when Ajax faced Dortmund in the Champions League last fall.
His stats are impressive, too. He’s in the 99th percentile for tackles per 90 (3.13) compared to other centerbacks in the Big 5 Leagues and European competition. He looks to be a solid passer as well, which we know is important for centerbacks in Mikel Arteta’s setup.
I would note, however, that the stats come from a small sample size, just 720 minutes. FBREF doesn’t have advanced data for Eredivisie league matches, so Martinez’s numbers are coming strictly from Champions League games. For comparison, Gabriel Magalhaes’ FBREF data comes from over 3000 minutes.
Like the Fabio Vieria signing, this link has come out of nowhere, which given the source (Ornstein) makes me think Arsenal’s interest is genuine and that there’s a good chance this move happens.
My take: if Martinez is the guy Mikel Arteta wants and believes he needs, I’m in favor. There is a clear rebuild and refresh through youth plan in place, and he’s sticking to it with the 24-year-old centerback. The Arsenal braintrust’s incoming transfers last summer earned them considerable goodwill / leeway from me. Outgoings are another story for another time. But if Edu, Mikel, & Co. think Lisandro Martinez is the right move, cut the check Enos Stanley.