William Saliba

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Does Boateng to Arsenal make sense?

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Arsenal have admitted they need a new center back after Calum Chamber’s ACL injury and reports suggest that Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng is their top target for January.

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Our partners at Sky Sports in Germany claim that Boateng wants to leave in the winter window and the 31-year-old will be able to leave the Bundesliga giants for around $16.7 million.

However, there’s a caveat in this deal as Bayern are currently short of fit center backs and Lucas Hernandez is struggling with his recovery from injury, so they may not be willing to sell Boateng in January.

Would Boateng to Arsenal make sense?

His quality over the years is clear for all to see as the 2014 World Cup winner has won every major trophy possible since joining Bayern in 2011. But does new Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta need another experienced center back a la David Luiz? They probably need to focus on bringing in younger players and they already have William Saliba arriving from Saint-Etienne in the summer after he was signed last summer and then loner back for 2019-20.

Boateng is a more conventional center back and pairing him with one of Luiz or Sokratis would probably work pretty well. Arteta has improved Arsenal in midfield and attack in his first few weeks as boss but Shkodran Mustafi looks set to be on his way out and they need a dominant center back to try and push them on to an unlikely top four finish this season.

The Gunners have been linked with a move for RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano but he is likely to stay with the German side until at least the summer, as they are pushing for the Bundesliga title and are in the UCL last 16.

As for Boateng, he has been pushing for a move away from Bayern for a few years now and after he was axed by German coach Joachim Low after Die Mannschaft’s failure at the 2018 World Cup he’s been out injured and his form has been inconsistent.

But Boateng’s quality remains and with former Germany teammates Bernd Leno, Mesut Ozil and Per Mertescaker at Arsenal, this could be a good fit for everyone involved.

Arteta wants to sign a new center back, Boateng wants to leave and for a player with his experience and quality it is very small transfer fee.

This deal makes so much sense for Arsenal.

Emery’s use of attackers may be his Arsenal downfall

Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
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When the Premier League season began, many joked that Arsenal was built to try and outscore teams 3-2 each week over 38 weeks.

It was a nod to the Gunners’ extraordinary attacking prowess and limited defensive additions. Arsenal had signed three defenders in the summer, one who wouldn’t arrive until the following season (William Saliba*) and another who would miss some time with injury (Kieran Tierney).

The third was David Luiz.

So it isn’t surprising that the Gunners are still allowing goals. It is surprising that they are not scoring more, and perhaps a bit stunning that the expected goals table says that Unai Emery‘s men aren’t even hard luck victims.

Arsenal has scored 16 goals and allowed 15 through 11 match days, but the xG table says the North London outfit has actually finished a bit better their chances and been worse on the other end (15 xG for, 17 xGA).

Luiz has made several head scratching errors to go with his wonderful long passes and forays forward. He’s a player capable of both the ethereal and the tragic, not unlike Granit Xhaka, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that a move across London.

There are plenty of reasons to be upset with the defense, of course, and it’s one thing if that anger is put at the board instead of Emery. The league-worst 7.7 interceptions per game points a bit to the tactics, but there’s no question the Gunners have made mistakes above field level even if the Laurent Koscielny exit to Bordeaux caught them by surprise.

But what should be damning is what Emery has been unable to do with an unbelievable batch of attackers. Given Nicolas Pepe to go with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the tactician has not been able to find a way to play them together. Breakout teens Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were both used over unused sub Pepe on Saturday despite the Ivorian not playing in the midweek League Cup loss to Liverpool.

Don’t get us wrong, both players are exciting pieces for the future, but the decision is so short-sighted (let alone that Emery put on Saka for Lucas Torreira with a one-goal lead and 17 minutes to play. Perhaps coincidental but no surprise tha it was 1-1 three minutes later).

Some if not many have argued that Pepe has been a disappointment since arriving in a mega money deal from Ligue 1, and the 24-year-old’s three goals and three assists in exactly 800 minutes in all competitions certainly aren’t eye-popping from a player who scored 22 and 11 in 3300 at Lille last season.

Yet Pepe is capable of the sensational, as evidenced by his pair of free kick goals in 15 minutes off the bench in the Europa League on Oct. 15. He’s third in the PL in successful dribbles (34) and is the 19th ranked player by SofaScore and 24th in WhoScored’s ratings. That’s the best of any Arsenal player, with Aubameyang 38th and 62nd according to both sites, respectively.

And stats say Pepe has been somewhat unlucky in PL play to boot, with one actual goal to go with 3 expected goals. His xG plus xA per contest is below only Lacazette and level with Aubameyang.

Arsenal is ninth in the PL in key passes, with 12.9 per game. Pepe’s 1.7 are behind only Mesut Ozil, whose sample size is two matches.

Look at this pass from Pepe to Lacazette between three bodies to set up Arsenal’s first goal in its memorable North London Derby comeback. It’s just one example, sure, and all players need time to integrate to a new league and culture, but not using a healthy Pepe for 180 minutes should never happen even with the five-pack of attackers.

*A silver lining for Arsenal fans: Saint-Etienne boss Claude Puel is furious with his club for selling the 18-year-old Saliba, calling him the “best player” on the team. He’s coming, eventually, even if Real Madrid are reportedly trying to find a way to hijack the sale/loan.