The defence has always been a problem for Arsenal. It isn’t just a case of it being an issue now. They’ve always been good in attack, scoring goals. But not letting goals in has been their downfall over the years. That led them to the chase of RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano last summer. That sort of a player is exactly what they need.
So far this season, the Gunners have let in 31 goals in the Premier League. Defensive errors from David Luiz and Sokratis have cost them crucial points, leading to them being tenth in the league currently.
Last season, the club had conceded 51 goals in the division- the ninth-best record in the Premier League. It led them to miss out on Champions League football. And perhaps, spending cheaply on the defence does come with this drawback.
The club has been making do with cheap and stop-gap defensive signings at the back. Sokratis and David Luiz are prime examples. William Saliba was loaned back to St. Etienne, with Rob Holding constantly facing injury issues. Callum Chambers is now likely to be out for the remainder of the season.
Perhaps, that is why the interest in Upamecano came up. He is young, full of potential and a lot like the younger version of Kalidou Koulibaly.
This season, Upamecano has made 18 appearances in all competitions for Leipzig. The start of the season was blighted by injury issues, but the Frenchman came back and is now going strong.
Upamecano is a complete central defender. He is good on the ball and off it. He has made 2.5 tackles per game this season, making 1.5 interceptions per game too. On average, he has played 71.7 passes per game, with an accuracy of 88.8 percent.
Out of regulars, his passing numbers have been the best in the side. He has the best passing accuracy and boasts of the most number of passes per game for Leipzig. He has been the second-best tackler, only behind Konrad Laimer. Out of regulars, he has been the second-best interceptor too- only behind Nordi Mukiele.
Like Koulibaly, Upamecano likes to get on the ball and build from the back. This often allows him to get the ball into midfield, as he has completed 0.7 dribbles per game this season. That is pretty high for a central defender.
The 21-year-old is well capable of playing in different systems. Early on in this season, new Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann would use a three-at-the-back shape when he was settling in. Even last season, the East German club did use a 3-5-2 shape multiple times.
Arsenal need the sort of central defender who can initiate the process of building from the back. They way they’re playing under Mikel Arteta shows that. David Luiz does allow that because of his ability on the ball. But he does make defensive errors when called into action.
Upamecano is someone who can play splitting passes into midfield- like Luiz does. And he is a known ball-winner who is quick to recover and do the same. His aforementioned numbers show that. He can grab some odd goals too, as evident from his tally of three goals in the 2017-18 season.
While he will cost money, Arsenal need to stop making stop-gap defensive signings. They need to address that part of the pitch in a more assured manner than they currently do. Him and Saliba can provide them the perfect foundation for a very reliable defensive line-up in the years to come. But it will take spending big money and the Gunners have to do that. It is high time.