5 long-term left-backs who Arsenal should consider signing
With another January transfer window upon us, it’s the first time in many years that Arsenal’s squad has no issues that urgently need tending to. There are a few injury problems in the heart of midfield, but elsewhere the club are well stocked with options both in attack and defence.
An area that could become potentially problematic is left-back, however. While Nacho Monreal has been incredibly consistent over the last 18 months, he's fast approaching his 31st birthday and continues to struggle against quick wingers. The uncertainty over Kieran Gibbs’ future is another issue the club must resolve: if the Englishman decides to leave this summer, a replacement will be needed.
Below are five potential options for Arsene Wenger...
1. Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli)
The Algerian gets forward effectively – he's already provided six assists this season – but is also assured in the tackle, which make him an ever-present in Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side
Many full-backs are exceptional in the final third but clueless in their own. You won’t find many defenders in Europe with a more well-rounded game than Faouzi Ghoulam, though. The Algerian gets forward effectively – he's already provided six assists this season – but is also assured in the tackle, which make him an ever-present in Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side.
Ghoulam currently boasts an 85% pass-completion rate in Serie A, a statistic far superior to most central midfielders in the league. The left-back averages 1.4 key passes and creates 1.6 chances per 90 minutes, and 76 per cent of his take ons are successful – which puts him comfortably ahead of both Monreal (64%) and Kieran Gibbs (55%).
He's excellent in the air, too, using his solid 6ft 1in frame to win over half of his aerial duels, while he's conceded only 10 fouls in nearly 1300 minutes.
With an aptitude for crossing and finding a pass without letting it hinder his strong desire to defend, Ghoulam is a model of consistency. The Algerian would provide some much-needed steel on the left and offer a welcome contrast to the more attack-minded Hector Bellerin at right-back.
What he’d cost: £14m
Chance of it happening: 8/10
2. Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg)
His superb technique and quality from dead-ball situations will always make him an attractive option for most clubs
Having already signed one Switzerland international from the Bundesliga in Granit Xhaka, Arsenal may be tempted to replicate that decision by securing the signature of Ricardo Rodriguez. The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the best left-backs in Germany since his move from FC Zurich in 2012, although he's struggled in a disjointed Wolfsburg side leaking far too many goals this term. Nevertheless, his superb technique and quality from dead-ball situations will always make him an attractive option for most clubs.
Rodriguez’s statistics this season may be skewed slightly as a result of him being forced to play at centre-half. He's not attempted a single take-on, for instance, and is only creating one chance per 90 minutes.
His defensive work has improved significantly, and though that's meant he may not be as influential in the final third, spending time in central defence has improved the weakest areas of his game.
The Gunners were reportedly interested in Rodriguez last summer, but it’s unclear whether inconsistency of late has put them off. With the riches of Inter and PSG still hovering with intent, triggering his £19m release clause in July would still be fantastic business.
What he’d cost: £19m – clause.
Chances of it happening: 7/10