The sale of Alexis Sanchez is undoubtedly the biggest story from an Arsenal perspective in the January transfer window. While the Gunners are set to acquire the services of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who is part of the swap deal with Manchester United, it is a massive loss for the North London club to part ways with their best attacking player of the past three seasons.
Manager Arsene Wenger has prepared himself for the Chilean’s exit and is looking at other options to replace him, with Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang heavily linked with a move to the Emirates.
That being said, Arsenal’s defence has been far from convincing this term, and due to the numerous injuries sustained by his defenders, Wenger could be looking at a variety of centre-backs to add to his ranks before the window slams shut on the 31st of this month.
Given below are four defenders that could join in January:
1. Stefan de Vrij
Wenger has deployed a back three on numerous occasions this season and is likely to field a similar system for the foreseeable future. Due to injuries sustained by Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and even Nacho Monreal, the Frenchman has been forced to use the likes of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding – both who aren’t quite cut out to play in the Premier League.
In the quest for finding a long-term solution at the heart of defence, the Arsenal board could look to Lazio defender Stefan de Vrij. The Dutch defender is considered one of the Serie A’s finest, and a move to the Premier League could elevate his career to new heights.
Much like his compatriot Virgil van Dijk, who recently signed for Liverpool, de Vrij puts the defensive side of his game first. He is extremely focused on the field and seldom suffers from lapses in concentration. He is hard on the tackle and equally proficient in recycling possession or looking for the long ball out wide.
Another key facet of his game is his ability to play out wide. De Vrij can do an equally good job when played as a right back. He has played out of position on several occasions for Lazio and has come out with flying colours more often than not.
Still only 25, the Dutchman is still to reach his peak and by playing under a coach like Arsene Wenger, he can raise his game up a few notches and take the Premier League by storm. He will undoubtedly be an upgrade on the likes of Chambers and Holding, and could even be considered as a better defender than Monreal.
2. Jonathan Tah
Despite being only 21, Bayer Leverkusen’s monstrous centre back Jonathan Tah has already made the top sides in Europe take note of him. Standing at 6’3″ tall, the German is a ferocious presence in the air, and is equally composed while distributing possession.
He has, in fact, been on the radar of a number of Premier League sides since his teenage days, and has only grown from strength to strength from thereon in. He has a dexterous footballing brain and has the penchant of reading the game like few others.
Tah’s versatility is also an essential deciding factor for his potential move to Emirates. His phenomenal dribbling ability can see him put in a decent shift as a defensive midfielder or even as a right back.
While Tah is criticised for making amateurish defensive errors on occasions, he could be excused for making a few, given Arsenal’s brand of football. Their defensive setup will play right into the German’s strengths as his dominating aerial presence could be imposing for the opposition attackers while his partners could sweep up any of the loose balls playing as the deeper of the three centre-halves.
3. Johnny Evans
After being shown the exit door at Old Trafford for not reaching the level expected from a Manchester United player, Johnny Evans found home comforts at the Hawthorns playing for West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies have known to be a defensive side since they established themselves as Premier League regulars a few seasons back. Since then, they have prioritised on signing centre-backs that play their hearts out for the team till the final whistle, and Evans has been one of the stand-outs among them.
Comparing him to the player he was at United would be unfair as the Irishman has evolved into a complete footballer under the tutelage and guidance of Tony Pulis, who has turned around the career of the now 30-year-old.
In fact, Evans has progressed to such an exceeding level, that he was a transfer target this summer for league leaders Manchester City as well as Arsenal. It will be no surprise if the Gunners are to show a keen interest for him once the January transfer window commences.
Evans is no stranger to defending from set pieces as West Brom are regarded as one of the better sides when it comes to man-marking. He is strong in tackles and while his passing may not be that impressive, the other aspects of his game make up for it.
His decision making has improved considerably over the past few seasons and could be ready to move back to a bigger side.
4. Ben Mee
The least glamorous, but arguably the most realistic of the bunch, is Burnley centre-back, Ben Mee. He has been a pivotal part of Sean Dyche’s football philosophy at Turf Moor and has gone on to become one of the Clarets’ better players.
The 28-year-old has been omnipresent at the heart of the defense this season for Burnley alongside James Tarkowski. Together, the duo have helped their side limit the number of goals scored against the side to a meagre six goals in eight league games this season.
Mee’s presence has helped the Clarets look an assured defensive unit that can shut out even the best of attacks in the league. For a team that has struggled in the air, the arrival of Mee can help Arsenal put an end to their defensive woes. He has won 4.05 aerial duels on an average per game this season in the Premier League, while Koscielny, Monreal, Holding and Chambers have all won fewer per ninety minutes.
While the 28-year-old is loyal to Dyche and Burnley, an opportunity to join Arsenal does not come every day, and he could be foolish to turn down a move to Emirates. Only time will tell whether Wenger uses the January window to rope in a suitable replacement.