Arsenal are very interested in bringing Napoli’s Senegal international Kalidou Koulibaly to the Emirates stadium this summer. Arsene Wenger has made centre-back one of his main priorities this summer and has identified Koulibaly as a potential target as they look to sign a top-class center half before the season starts.
According to the Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph, Arsenal are in the market for a centre-back to partner current defender Laurent Koscielny after this seasons struggles. Koulibaly is deemed the perfect partner as the Gunners looks to strengthen up at the back.
Arsenal are desperate to sign a solid defender after defensive frailties once again played a massive part in their faint title challenge. Koulibaly could be available for around £20 million this summer, a fee that Arsenal can easily afford.
Koulibaly has represented France u20’s 10 times before opting to play for Senegal nation team where he has started five games.
France-born Koulibaly has arguably had his best season in his career this year. Napoli pushed Juventus for the title and he was certainly a main factor to that. His prolific season hasn’t gone unnoticed and footballing legend Diego Maradona labelled him the best defender in Serie A.
Maradona – “”He is phenomenal, the best defender in Serie A”
Koulibaly who signed for Napoli in 2014 from Genk has played 44 games scoring just one goal. His superb defensive abilities have caught the eye of top European clubs with Manchester United and Chelsea also interested in his signature.
Arsenal will not stop at one signing like they did last summer. The Gunners are expected to pursue their interest in Koulibaly in hope he will bring back much-needed stability into their defense.
Arsenal will be desperate to rebuild the core of their team with a defender high on the list. With doubts over Mertesacker’s future and Gabriel’s progress taking slower than hoped, Arsenal will certainly be in the market for a defender this summer.
Mertesacker has only one more year remaining on his contract and it is not yet known if he will be offered an extension. Arsenal will also be conscious that Laurent Koscielny, who is the clear first choice central defender, is now also into his 30s.
There have been question marks raised as to whether or not Per Mertesacker will still be at Arsenal next season after a decline in form, and Gabriel hasn’t managed to convince Arsene Wenger either. We take a look at how Koulibaly compares to Arsenal’s current central defenders Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista.
An absolute monster in Napoli’s defence, combining composure on the ball with unmatched physicality that enables him to shut down most strikers, Koulibaly has managed 2.15 tackles won per 90 minutes which shows the dominant force he is. Gabriel is second with 1.43 whilst Mertesacker last 1.06. The Barclays Premier League is arguably the toughest league in the world – aerial presence is key to play in defence and once again Koulibaly shows why he’s been one of the best defenders in Europe this season. He has won 2.52 aerial duels which once again puts him ahead of the two Gunners defenders. Gabriel is second with 2.50 and surprisingly, standing over 6ft Mertesacker is last 2.29 which is still a good score. There are many aspects of being a defender and interceptions are one. Gabriel has shown his athleticism managing 3.16 interceptions per 90 minutes. Koulibaly is second on 2.56 whilst once again Mertesacker is last (1.58). Another important aspect of being a great defender is blocks, Gabriel scores 0.66 once again puts him top, narrowly edging Koulibaly by 0.01 who manages 0.65. Mertesacker who has been out of favor for the Gunners once again comes last 0.44. Gabriel manages 6.07 blocks, Mertesacker comes second with 5.01 and Koulibaly last on 3.90 – this highlights Koulibaly’s style of passing the ball or carrying the ball out rather than clearing it. As a central defender, managers are known wanting to play from the back but ball playing CB’s are a rarity, especially good ones. Koulibaly has once again proved himself in this area managing 62.86 forward passes per 90 minutes which is absolutely brilliant for a defender. Gabriel and Mertesacker are once again behind Koulibaly with 44.13 and the latter 41.50.
Arsenal are looking to rebuild the spine of the team – Koulibaly would be a top class addition to that spine. At just 24-years-old he is already proving to be one of the best central defenders in Europe. He has many years ahead of him and is still yet to reach his peak and at just £20 million he would be an absolute bargain. Mertesacker and Gabriel are simply not good enough to represent the Gunners every week and be at the heart of the defence. Although there is a lot of promise in Calum Chambers I feel he will need a loan move where he plays 30+ games a season before being promoted to the first eleven. Arsenal will really have to fight for his signature with some of the biggest clubs in Europe sniffing around.