According to Sport Bild, Arsenal are planning a summer move for Bayer Leverkusen star Jonathan Tah. The 24-year-old reportedly has a £34m release clause in his contract, and would offer some serious defensive stability for the Gunners.
The current Arsenal defence
The current Gunners central defensive corp have criticised beyond belief, and that’s when they’re all actually fit, which seems to be a rarity. The current defensive options for Mikel Arteta in a central area are as follows:
- David Luiz
- Shkodran Mustafi
- Calum Chambers
- Rob Holding
- Pablo Mari
Luiz, for all his success as a footballer, has been a famously disruptive presence in the defensive line throughout his career. However, since joining Arsenal in the summer, I’d say he’s been half-decent more often than not – although there has been the odd occasion where he has shown his ability to be a massive liability…
That said, he’s been a lot better than I personally thought he would be at Arsenal so far this season. He’s also said to be a very positive influence both on and off the field on the players around him. Whether that makes up for his more erratic moments, I’m not sure – you’ll have to decide that yourself.
Then comes Sokratis, who has all the traits you’d want from a central defender, but like Luiz has a tendency to make mistakes. In my opinion, he’s probably the best of the bunch in terms of Arsenal centre-halves, but that’s hardly a Champions League level achievement.
He seems to have taken to life under new boss Arteta pretty well and has the ability to pop up at the other end of the pitch with the odd goal here and there – which is never a bad thing.
Next up is Shkodran Mustafi who is that player at Arsenal we all love to hate. His play style is often chaotic and usually completely error-strewn, but every now and then he puts in a performance that just makes you think “maybe he’s actually not half-bad”, but then scores six own goals and gets sent off in the next game.
That said, he has improved of late and my pal and fellow TSD writer Ben tells me he’s been Arsenal’s “most improved player under Arteta” – which is interesting. Then again, he also referred to him as “GOATstafi” in the same message – make of that what you will…
Away from that, Chambers offers a decent option but spends far too much time on the treatment table. Pablo Mari looks like he could be good, but having just arrived from Brazil might take some time to settle in and Rob Holding has stuggled to find any consistent form since his return from an ACL injury.
As a unit, they’ve kept six clean sheets in the league so far this season – the eighth most in the division. They’ve conceded 34 goals in total this season, more than Crystal Palace – seven teams have conceded less. All-in-all, it’s not as bad as you might think, but the need for strengthening is still there.
Jonathan Tah – is the move feasible?
The move for Tah is an impressive one should Arsenal be able to pull it off. The report in Bild states that Arsenal are indeed looking to trigger the £34m release clause – but the clause is not as black and white as a normal release clause would be.
Apparently, his contract has something written into it wherein at the end of the season, if Bayer Leverkusen qualify for the UEFA Champions League by finishing in the top four in Bundesliga, then the release clause will “significantly increase”.
As well as that, Arsenal have competition in the hunt for Tah’s signature from one of Europe’s elite clubs, Atletico Madrid. You may be tempted to think that Atletico would have the edge in that particular hunt, but given that Arsenal currently employ Tah’s former teammate Bernd Leno, he might be tempted to reunite with his pal.
In terms of what he would offer the Gunners, he has every chance of coming in and becoming one of the best defenders in the league. Standing at 6’5″ tall and built like a brick sh*thouse, he’s a serious unit. He currently plays either as the right sided central defender or as the man in the middle of a three man Leverkusen defence.
He’s a natural leader and leads the Bundesliga giants in clearances per game this season (not counting players with only one or two apps) as well as blocks per game. He can rally the troops in front of him and for me, could be the perfect man to come in and stabilise the Arsenal back line on a long-term basis.
Once Pablo Mari settles in a gets used to the intensity of the Premier League, if the reports of his quality are accurate, those two at the back together could give Arsenal one of the better centre-back pairings in the whole league – which would be a breath of fresh air to Gunners fans starved of proper quality in that position for a while.