Cedric Soares to bolster weak Arsenal defence?

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Ben Knapton
A first-class honours Sport Journalism graduate, Ben has experience working in the sports media industry at local papers, broadcasters and reporting live from the press box. Ben is an avid Arsenal fan and a former British champion gymnast.

According to Sky Sports News, Arsenal are set to sign Southampton defender Cedric Soares on a loan deal until the end of the season.

The 28-year-old, who is out of contract with the Saints in the summer, would be Mikel Arteta’s second signing of the transfer window after Spanish centre-back Pablo Mari arrived on Wednesday. Soares is however currently sidelined with a knee ligament problem, sustained in Southampton’s victory over Crystal Palace, but was a regular in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side until his injury.

A versatile defender, the Portuguese international would primarily be deployed as a right-back but is just as capable of playing on the left-hand side. It is thought that he would provide cover for Hector Bellerin, who has just returned from injury himself, while potentially filling in at left-back with Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac both out of action.

Furthermore, the Saints have already added to their defensive ranks by bringing in Kyle Walker-Peters on loan from Tottenham, suggesting that Soares to Arsenal is set to be confirmed before Friday’s deadline. It seems too typical of the Gunners to sign an already injured player, especially with our medical room piling up at the moment, but the 28-year-old isn’t expected to be out for too long.

On the whole, this potential transfer has seemed to register well with the Arsenal faithful. After all, Soares is a seasoned Premier League defender, arguably at the peak of his career at 28 years old, and will keep Bellerin on his toes with the added competition for places. Having won the 2016 European Championship with Portugal, he’s also a man who knows how to perform on the big occasion, playing the full 120 minutes in the 1-0 victory over France in the final.

I suppose the main concern with the impending arrival of Soares will be where Ainsley Maitland-Niles now fits in with Arteta’s plans? The young Englishman enjoyed a solid string of performances in his last few games at right-back before Bellerin’s return, and could now be deployed as a midfielder in future games, which is his more natural and preferred position. But competition for places in the middle of the park is stacked right now, and taking the form of other midfielders into account, the 22-year-old could find it difficult to break into the team again.

Nevertheless, this transfer is certainly smart thinking from Arteta, and a £5m loan fee isn’t a bad piece of business at all considering the Portuguese international will become a free agent in the summer. As the January transfer window draws to a close, two defenders until the end of the season will provide some desperately needed cover until more players make it out of the Arsenal treatment room.

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