Fans will have been buoyed by the additions Arsenal have made to the frontline following the arrivals of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang in January, but the fate of West Bromwich Albion and Koln could help determine where Arsene looks next. The Gunners now have an attacking unit to rival the best in the division but following the close of the window, Wenger admitted to Standard Sport that defence is still an area of concern.
“Did we get everything done? No. What I wanted to do, we have done. I couldn’t do everything. I wanted to do more.
“Yes, our defensive numbers are not good enough and that’s where we needed some possible strengthening as well. We have to improve our defensive numbers. We want to go in the top four.”
Various mainstream outlets reported of an Arsenal deadline day scramble for a centre-back and a name consistently linked with the club in recent months is West Bromwich Albion captain Jonny Evans. Encouraging confirmation of a £3m relegation release clause surfaced in the Daily Star the week before ‘Deadline Day,’ but Arsenal would ultimately fail to meet West Brom’s £20m-plus valuation of the thirty-year-old, previously deemed surplus to requirements by David Moyes.
West Brom currently sit twentieth, with just three wins in twenty-six games and relegation is beginning to look inevitable. Their captain has attracted plenty of interest over the past year, with Arsenal emerging as favourites for his signature, as Manchester City ended their interest with the £60m purchase of Aymeric Laporte. Evans may not be the glamour signing fans crave but at £3m would represent unbelievable value for an experienced centre-half who has been a leader for both club and country. A ball-playing centre half who is comfortable in a back three or four, the Northern Irishman could instantly be plugged into the team, being familiar with the league.
Centre-back has long been an area of concern but many Arsenal fans will be anxious that a new goalkeeper also be prioritised this summer. When Cech signed in 2015 few saw him as a long-term number one but rather a reliable stop-over, in a similar vein to the signing of Jens Lehman a decade earlier. Patience has begun to dwindle after a succession of costly errors and Cech’s time as first-choice could be numbered.
Arsenal have reportedly accelerated their pursuit of a replacement and may have identified Koln’s Timo Horn as a long-term successor, the latest model in the seemingly endless production line of German goalkeepers.The 6ft 4in stopper, who is yet to make his full international bow, could well travel to this years’ World Cup, having achieved a silver medal for Germany at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Despite being relatively early in his career at twenty-four, the German has made 108 league appearances for his boyhood club and comes with European experience having kept a clean sheet during Arsenal’s away defeat in November.
It has long been rumoured that Horn’s contract contains a relatively modest release clause between £10-£12m but with Koln sitting at the foot of the table, a number of British outlets, including The Sun, have exposed a £5.4m release clause that may entice Arsenal. Horn would join many fellow compatriots at the Emirates and continue the trend by new head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, of targeting talent from the Bundesliga.
Should they suffer relegation this season, West Brom captain Evans and Koln number one Horn, will be available for a combined £10m – arguably a third of their true value. Neither players are elite level at this stage but at low fees, have tremendous upsides and the fate of both clubs could help to shape Arsenal’s backline next year. Record fees and contracts have been agreed by Arsenal over the past twelve months and with Champions League football no longer a formality, the club must have emphasised the careful management of Arsenal’s growing wage bill. Neither player will be expected to demand an excessive salary and after a transfer window which saw centre-backs Laporte and Van Dijk move for over £130m combined,Arsenal fans can feel optimistic about the prospect of two new potential defensive starters for such low outlay.