Mikel Arteta could do with a new defender or two at the Emirates; could Arsenal raid Premier League rivals Bournemouth for Nathan Ake?
Paul Merson believes that £20 million Bournemouth star Nathan Ake could be the man to solve Arsenal’s defensive worries, while speaking to Sky Sports’ The Debate (10 February).
The Gunners have been much-improved at the back since Mikel Arteta was handed his first ever managerial role in the autumn, with the likes of David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi producing the kind of disciplined, reliable performances that looked all-but impossible under Unai Emery.
But whether the likes of Luiz, Mustafi or Sokratis Papastathopoulos can be relied upon long-term remains to be seen.
As the German World Cup winner reminded everyone at Stamford Bridge recently, bad habits are always bubbling under the surface.
Merson believes that Arsenal need to splash to cash to reinforce their well-publicised Achilles heel with a defender who failed to make the grade at Chelsea the preferred option of a Gunners legend.
“They need a centre-half and a world-class holding midfielder,” Merson said. “I think Arsenal need to play with a back three. They’re not good enough as defenders to play as a four.
“Ake has pace and he’s played in England for a while, so if you brought him in for next season he’s not a player who will need time to get used to the league for six months.
“Arsenal need to hit the ground running [next season] and everybody needs to know their jobs in the team.”
Ake joined Bournemouth in a club-record £20 million deal three years ago and continues to go from strength to strength under Eddie Howe, even as the Cherries flirt with relegation.
The Dutch international has everything required to be a top-class centre-half; pace, power, excellent reading of the game, brilliant heading ability and an eye for goal too.
Even in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United, Ake barely put a foot wrong, racking up ten clearances, winning five aerial duels and managing an 87 per cent pass completion rate during another performance which suggested that a return to the top level might not be far away.