Arsenal have struggled to keep clean sheet so far this season
Wednesday 19 December 2018 13:34, UK
Arsenal’s injury crisis in defence was underlined by Unai Emery’s team selection for the 3-2 defeat to Southampton on Sunday. The Gunners lined up with the returning Laurent Koscielny alongside Stephan Lichtsteiner and Granit Xhaka in a makeshift back three.
Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos were suspended for that game but Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos are both out injured and Emery appears open to the idea of adding to his squad in January if he can find the right players who can help.
But who could that be?
WhoScored.com have picked out five defenders who fit the bill…
WhoScored.com rating: Liga NOS 7.41 / Champions League 7.34
While all eyes seem to be on young centre-back partner Eder Militao, fellow Brazilian Felipe has been a hugely consistent performer for Porto since signing for the club in 2016. The 29-year-old has considerably more experience and would come at significantly less expense too, so surely won't have been overlooked by those scouting his compatriot either.
Strong in the air in both boxes, Felipe reads the game well and has made more interceptions than any other player in Portugal this season. He helped his team to the league title last season and Porto also top of the pile this term too, as well as having earned the most points of any side in the Champions League group stages. Felipe earned his first Brazil cap in September and is at the peak of his powers. He could be a steal.
WhoScored.com rating: Bundesliga 7.37 / Europa League 7.31
The most experienced head in an extremely young defence, Orban is just 26 himself but marshals a Leipzig rearguard with the best defensive record in the Bundesliga. He is another player who may not cost the earth either, and with Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate and Nordi Mukiele competing for places at the back for the German outfit, Orban has started just nine of 15 league games in a rotation policy.
Leipzig have kept five clean sheets in those matches, conceding only five goals, with Orban representing a dominant force in the defence. Like Felipe he is superb in the air, winning the second most aerial duels per game in the Bundesliga this season, and he too has just embarked on his senior international career having opted to represent Hungary after being overlooked by the German national side.
WhoScored.com rating: Serie A 7.11
If it's a leader that Emery wants to strengthen a suspect backline then Pezzella would certainly be a strong option. The 27-year-old missed out on Argentina's World Cup squad despite an assured debut season with Fiorentina but is very much in the plans of new coach Lionel Scolari, starting the four matches immediately after a disastrous campaign, with La Albiceleste conceding just once in that time.
Having shown the strength of character to captain his side following the tragic passing of former centre-back partner Davide Astori earlier this year, Pezzella has become a fan favourite with the Viola for good reason. Another strong player when it comes to an aerial battle, the Argentine has won more than any other defender in Serie A this season at an impressive 66 per cent success rate, and ranks fifth in the division for interceptions.
WhoScored.com rating: La Liga 6.84
A player believed to be on the Gunners' radar as we approach the January transfer window, Calero has impressed a number of clubs both in England and in his native Spain in his first season of top-flight football. The 23-year-old helped Valladolid to promotion last season and has played every minute of the current campaign as the club look to re-establish themselves at this level.
They've made a decent fist of it so far, conceding fewer goals than leaders Barcelona, with Calero playing a pivotal role in a strong defensive record. The youngster places among the top five players in the division for both clearances and shots blocked but is also capable of passing his way out of trouble, with an impressive 87.3 per cent accuracy. He also has a rather tempting £10m release clause in his contract, so is perhaps the most attainable target next month.
WhoScored.com rating: Super Lig 6.84 / Champions League 7.10
At just 18 years of age, Kabak is definitely one for the future but the teenager has made a place in a title-winning side of his own this season and looked at home. His composure in possession belies his tender years and would certainly appeal to Emery's desire to play out from the back at all costs, and some of his performances in Europe in particular have caught the eye of a number of top clubs.
Kabak boasted a pass accuracy of 88.7 per cent in the Champions League group stages, ranking first in the competition for tackles and interceptions per game combined. This is still his first season in senior football, it should be said, but the youngster is a player who many will be monitoring in the coming weeks and months. If Arsenal were in the market for a promising back-up defender to freshen things up, the Turkey youth international should be on their Christmas list.