Arsenal's defence had it's fair share of problems last season, and it's obvious to one and all that reinforcements in that area are needed for them this summer. As a result quite a number of defenders have been linked to them this summer, and I'll attempt to run through the talents of some of those. I will also try to rate their chances of joining Arsenal, and what impact they might have on the team if they do sign.
Christopher Samba has been linked with Arsenal on numerous occasions since the season ended, and if the rumours on Sky Sports among others are to believed Arsenal are currently very interested in signing him. The logic behind Arsenal's interest would seem to be that Arsenal need a tall, ball winning centre back, and Samba fits the bill perfectly. He has plenty of Premier League experience, and his strength in the air is there for all to see.
Blackburn Rovers have already sold one of their centre backs in the current transfer window, and they might not be keen to sell another. However, Samba would surely see a chance to join Arsenal as a real progression in his career, and I would be surprised if he decided to stay with Blackburn. He's 27 years old and he should be right at the peak of his career at the moment.
Arsenal showed some interest in Samba in the January transfer window, but he extended his contract at Blackburn despite earlier stating his desire to leave them. If Arsenal were to sign Samba he could be the player they need to strengthen their defence from set pieces, and his ability to add a few goals of his own would be much appreciated too. I don't know if he would be the ideal player to play in Champions League games, but against the more agricultural Premier League teams he would be a real asset.
Gary Cahill has only one year left on his contract at Bolton Wanderers, and if they don't sell him the chances are he will leave on a free transfer next summer. He has been linked to Arsenal in The Mirror along with quite a few other publications, and like Samba he's seen as a ball winning centre back. He's a couple of inches shorter than Samba, but his ability in the air can't be doubted.
He would also help to improve Arsenal's chances of reducing the amount of goals they concede from set pieces, but I would be surprised if they cough up the money Bolton are currently asking for. He has a buy out clause of £17 million in his contract, but if Bolton try to hold out for that fee they might not be able to sell him. Arsene Wenger waited for an extra year before signing Marouane Chamakh so that he could get him on a free transfer, and he might well be tempted to do the same with Cahill.
I think Cahill would be a valuable addition to the Arsenal squad, but I think Wenger will only sign one experienced centre back. Like Samba he has plenty of Premier League experience, and that's exactly what Arsenal are looking for at the moment. I would be surprised if Arsenal will meet Bolton's valuation for the player, but if they can come to a compromise he might be an Arsenal player very soon.
Mamadou Sakho has been linked with Arsenal for a while, and according to The Daily Mail he could be a target in the current transfer window. Sakho is a tough tackling central defender who can also play at left back if needed, and he would seem to have all the right attributes to play in the Premier League. He has been very impressive for PSG in France, but at only 21 he might not have the experience which is essential to Arsenal.
If he is a target for Arsenal he would probably have to compete with the current crop of centre backs at the club, and he might not fit the bill as a ball winning centre back. I have no doubt that he is very talented and he will be a real star of the future, but Arsenal need players to make a difference to their team immediately. Despite his young age Sakho has been a regular first team player for PSG for three seasons, and he has been very impressive for them.
I don't think Arsenal will sign Sakho this summer, but if they do it will be as a player to be gradually brought into the first team. Arsenal have three very good central defenders already, and Sakho's lack of experience will probably mean Wenger decides against signing him.
Leighton Baines had a very good season at left back for Everton, and he was linked to Arsenal in The News Of The World, as well as other publications. He managed five goals and11 assists in the Premier League last season, and he is seen s a possible replacement for Gael Clichy. Clichy is in the last year of his contract and it seems he might decide not to sign another one.
If Clichy won't sign a new contract a replacement will have to be found for him, and quite a few Arsenal fans think Baines is the man to fill that role. The majority of his assists were converted by Tim Cahill's head, and Arsenal don't really have a player like Cahill. In my opinion the most important job for any defender is his defending, and I'm not sure Baines is up to scratch in that department.
Baines is the right age to fit the profile for Arsenal and he's an Englishman too, but he is no taller than Andrey Arshavin. I would prefer to see Arsenal sign a left back with better defending skills and who is at least three inches taller than Baines if Clichy leaves. Kieran Gibbs would hope to be promoted to the role, but it would be a big risk to depend on a player with so little experience and who is also so injury prone.
Alexander Milosevic is a 19 year old left back who plays for AIK Solna in Sweden, and according to The Sun Arsenal are favourites to sign him. He has only played for AIK's first team for one full season and he hardly fits the bill for experienced players that Arsenal need. If Arsenal are going to sign him I can only imagine it is as a player for the future.
It would be asking an awful lot of Milosevic to expect him to step up to play for Arsenal's first team, but he certainly looks to have all the necessary attributes to make it in the Premier League. If Clichy leaves I think Arsenal will sign an experienced left back, but they might also decide to sign Milosevic as one for the future. He should be available at a reasonable price, and that's the sort of money Arsenal will be prepared to spend on a potential star of the future.
The chances are Arsenal will sign either Cahill or Samba as the central defender their team needs so badly at times, and they might possibly sign Milosevic too in my opinion. I would be surprised if Baines was a real target for Arsenal, and I just don't know if there is any truth behind the rumours about Sakho.
Arsenal should have Thomas Vermaelen available for next season, and that should be a real boost for their defence, but it still needs some real strengthening in my opinion. Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny both have loads of potential, and they both looked very good on a number of occasions last season. However, Arsenal need to bring in players to improve their defending at set pieces and their options in defence too.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at how good Vermaelen was in his first season at Arsenal.
See You Tomorrow.