Mikel Arteta has made the improvement of Arsenal’s defence a priority since his arrival at the cub. He has already spent more than £100 million on the defence in the window with five new signings and a potential sixth coming in this summer.
Pablo Mari, Cedric Soares, Gabriel Magalhaes, Nuno Tavares, Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu were brought in the past two summers. Arsenal have also added Aaron Ramsdale and Matt Turner, that were not included in the above valuation due to their role as goalkeepers.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is reportedly closing on a potential move to Arsenal after both the Gunners and Manchester City agreed on a fee in the region of £30million. The Ukrainian can play in midfield but has featured predominantly as a left-back for the Citizens.
Meanwhile, the return of William Saliba has further bolstered the Arsenal defence; the 20-year-old started against Everton in the US tour friendly and shone as many predicted he would. Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney are the final options carried over from before Arteta was appointed.
Realistically, Arteta could work a ridiculous number of combinations for his defence with the available nine players. However, there are six that are most likely to be used across varying levels of opposition and competition.
Firstly, is the back four from last season. Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel and Tierney were the mainstay in defence and helped build a platform for the side to challenge for a top-four spot. The injuries to Tomiyasu, White and Tierney in the season’s final games ultimately derailed momentum and the Gunners lost out to their north London rivals.
The potential arrival of Zinchenko could see the new signing replace Tierney in that quartet. Whilst expectation might be for the 25-year-old to cover the Scot in case of potential injury, Zinchenko is of a level that can easily see him compete for a starting place in defence and midfield.
The third and fourth combination would see William Saliba replace Ben White. Saliba is a versatile player who can play right or left of the back two but also at right-back in times of great need.
With either of the senior left-back options, Saliba could play alongside Gabriel with Tomiyasu being a great disciplined partner for when the Frenchman likes to progress play with both passes and dribbles. Balance has been critical to forming Arteta’s squad and Tomiyasu is a crucial player in meshing the players into a unit.
The final four options come from a structural change. With White, Saliba and Gabriel available, many have suggested the possibility to move into a back three against some of the tougher Premier League oppositions when either matching up the likes of Chelsea or playing away against City or Liverpool.
White, Saliba and Gabriel would form the middle three with the wing-back roles coming in the form of four possible combinations. Tierney or Zinchenko could play the left-sided role with both being excellent in the final third.
Takehiro Tomiyasu could potentially play the right-wing-back role and has for his former side Bologna, but he is comparatively less effective to his left-sided colleagues. Therefore, perhaps Cedric Soares would be the more seamless option with the Portuguese’s attacking nature considered.
Plenty of options and just one guarantee. Mikel Arteta will not be struggling for options when it comes to making his team selection but could have one almighty headache figuring it out.