With the likely departure of Laurent Koscielny after he refused to travel with the squad for Arsenal’s pre-season tour, signing a top-class defender is imperative if we want to succeed next season.
The France defender revealed his wishes to leave Arsenal with Ligue 1 his expected destination, but it leaves the Gunners short of quality at the back. Despite the 33-year-old being past his best, he was an excellent ambassador and role model within the club; losing our club captain is a devastating blow. However, it is important that we move on and replace him with a centre back who will add to the quality of our side.
It has been widely reported that Arsenal have agreed a fee in the region of £26m for 18-year-old William Saliba from Saint-Etienne, but that deal does not help our current predicament. The French centre back will likely return to the Ligue 1 side on a season-long loan, which means we will still be short at the back for the 2019/20 campaign. Other than this news, links to centre backs have been something of a rarity, with attackers the forefront of headlines and articles across media platforms.
The Gunners had a £40m bid rejected for Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha, with the Eagles expressing their desire to keep him in south London despite his urges to switch over to north London. Bookmakers are offering odds of 8/11 for Zaha to sign for Arsenal and you can download betting apps from this site to find the best price if you fancy this move to go ahead.
One defender we have been linked with in recent weeks in Celtic full-back Kieran Tierney. After a £15m bid was rejected by the Scottish champions, interest cooled and the £26m signing of Saliba could put this move on holt for this summer at least. Although the Gunners need an improved left-back, Unai Emery’s attention must turn to signing a centre back.
Sokratis is an excellent defender and is crucial to our back four; finding him a solid partner would bolster our chances of finishing in the top four next season. Germany defender Shkodran Mustafi has demonstrated a plethora of times that he is not good enough to be a regular starter, but that remains the prospect ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
So, how does our season begin and what can we expect?
Our opening game starts with a tricky trip up north as we visit Newcastle United on August 11. Despite the departures of Rafa Benitez and Ayoze Perez, victories at St James’ Park are difficult to come by, especially with the voice of the Toon Army ringing around the stadium. However, the formidable force of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette should prove too hot to handle for the Magpies, and three points should come back to north London.
That is followed by a clash with Burnley at Emirates Stadium on August 17. This fixture last season saw the Gunners run out as 3-1 winners against Sean Dyche’s side, and we can expect a similar scoreline this time around. The Clarets will be difficult to break down, but our firepower should be enough to combat their defensive set up and give us our second win of the season.
Our last match in August ends with one of the toughest matches of the season – a trip to Liverpool on August 24. The last time Arsenal left Anfield with three points was a 2-0 win back in 2012, and it looks a tough ask to end that horrific record. The European champions were undefeated in the Premier League at Anfield last season, blitzing teams for fun. Unfortunately, the trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will be unstoppable, especially with our defence, and this is where I expect our first defeat of the season to come