With centre-back Per Mertesacker out injured and unlikely to play again this year, Arsenal have been forced into the transfer market for defenders. Thankfully, it seems manager Arsene Wenger hasn’t wasted too much time. The club has reportedly opened talks for Germany international Shkodran Mustafi of Valencia, though without yet making a formal offer to the Spanish side, according to the Independent.
The British newspaper says according to reports in Spain Valencia are willing to sell Mustafi if Arsenal meet their £20.9m valuation of the 24-year-old centre-back. That is significantly lower than the £42.1m release clause in his contract, which is due to run until 2019.
Given the conundrum Arsenal find themselves in terms of defenders, 24-year-old Mustafi seems a good buy. In Rob Holding and Calum Chambers we have two recognised centre-backs, but their relative youth and lack of experience at the top level suggests reinforcements are needed quickly.
If at the beginning of the summer the case for bringing in a defender was harder to make, the Mertesacker knee injury, Gabriel Paulista’s tonsillitis and Laurent Koscielny’s extended leave after Euro 2016 means the landscape has changed dramatically.
That said, Holding did impress on his debut in the Gunners’ recent match against the MLS All-Stars.
“I thought he did very well, manager Wenger told Arsenal.com, “I must say he looked composed, mastered the pressure well, wasn’t nervous and he reads the game very well. I think it’s very interesting to see that such a young boy like him can cope with a game like that.”
Encouraging words there but with all due respect to the MLS All-Stars, a friendly in San Jose is not the same as performing in the Premier League week in, week out. Wenger, of course, knows that and that’s why Mertesacker’s injury may be a blessing in disguise; something which has brought to a head a problem which was already on the horizon.
At 31, the big German, constantly under fire for his lack of pace, is not getting any younger. Signing Mustafi or a player of similar age and calibre could be the ideal replacement for Mertesacker as he ages and his presence in the team gradually diminishes.