ANDERS KJAERBYE/Getty Images
Arsene Wenger has reportedly named Atletico Madrid’s Jose Gimenez as Arsenal’s top target ahead of this summer’s transfer window. Wenger wants centre-back Gimenez after missing out on Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij, who may join Premier League rivals Liverpool, per ElGolDigital.com (h/t Charles Watts of Football.London).
However, Gimenez won’t come cheap, with Watts noting how the precocious defender has a release clause worth £57 million. Even so, making such an investment in Gimenez would be a smart move from Wenger since this Arsenal defence has been so vulnerable.
The Gunners’ back line came in for particular criticism following Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Premier League leaders Manchester City in the 2018 Carabao Cup final.
Arsenal conceded the first goal when Shkodran Mustafi was nudged out of the way by City striker Sergio Aguero. The incident prompted Sky Sports commentator Gary Neville (h/t MailOnline’s Robert Summerscales) to brand Mustafi’s defending “pathetic” and “terrible.”
Mustafi and Co. shipped two more goals, with Vincent Kompany and David Silva both getting on the scoresheet. The performance led to Norwegian football journalist Jan Aage Fjortoft bluntly highlighting the difference between this Arsenal defence and the club’s more famous rearguard of yesteryear:
Arsenal haven’t just been generous in cup competitions, either. Wenger has also seen his team concede 36 goals in 27 matches in the league.
The Gunners boss knows he needs to refresh his defence. Per Mertesacker is 33 and headed for retirement, while 32-year-old Laurent Koscielny has been blighted by ongoing Achilles injuries.
Their issues only compound the struggle for form experienced by Mustafi, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding. Such struggles have led Wenger to flip-flop between three at the back and a back four, with neither system yielding much success.
Simply put, Arsenal need more natural talent in defensive areas. Giminez would provide some as a pacy and physical centre-back with the potential to get better and better in the next few years.
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
He has also benefited from working with Atleti manager Diego Simeone, who has made defensive resilience a hallmark of Los Rojiblancos in recent seasons. So far, the side second in La Liga has conceded just 11 goals in 25 games.
Gimenez has only started 11 of those matches, yet there is no denying the potential and raw skills of the South American.
The lack of starts could strengthen Arsenal’s case to sign Gimenez provided the club is prepared to splash the cash on a defender. Wenger has twice broke the £50 million mark to sign a striker since last summer, bringing both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to north London.
It’s uncertain whether attack-minded Wenger would make the same investment in a defender, especially given the doubts about his own future.
A report from David Woods of the Daily Star has revealed Carlo Ancelotti is prepared to take over if Wenger doesn’t get to see out his contract, which runs until 2019, but Arsenal’s slim hopes of qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League could see a change made this summer.
Michel Euler/Associated Press
However, if Wenger is still in charge, signing Gimenez would be a terrific first step toward fixing the one problem so often at the root of Arsenal’s struggles to win consistently in recent years.