According to BBC journalist David Ornstein, Arsenal are looking at alternatives to Skhodoran Mustafi after so far failing to agree a fee with Valencia.
In a series of tweets on Monday evening, Ornstein revealed that the Gunners are considering a cheaper alternative to Mustafi as they are hoping to sign a striker later in the window.
Interestingly Ornstein went on to suggest that the Gunners may be holding back funds to help secure an attacking signing: “Price the issue. Arsenal want to hold back funds for possible striker signing.
#AFC (Arsenal) transfer budget factors in fee, salary, agent commission”
So who is Toprak and how would he fit in at Arsenal? Toprak is considered as one of the leading central defenders in Bundesliga outside of Bayern Munich, he currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen, a club hoping to challenge for the Bundesliga title this season. Although he had injury problems last season, he really impressed.
A Turkish international that has grown as a player throughout his five years at Leverkusen, Toprak fits the ‘experienced’ label that Arsene is looking for. He has been capped 23 times for his country and has played nearly 200 Bundesliga matches for Freiburg and Leverkusen. Not only does he have the games under his belt, Toprak has a very calm presence on the pitch, his concentration is very good and that would be welcome in the Arsenal defence at the moment in the long-term absence of Per Mertesacker.
As much as it would appear a reactionary signing, I have no doubt that Arsenal scouts have been watching Toprak for some time and now with the injuries to Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista, they may have recommended him to Arsene.
From what I’ve seen of Toprak I would suggest that his positioning is one of his main strengths. He is intelligent and would be able to aid a younger defender like Rob Holding if he played alongside him. Toprak’s presence would have certainly be beneficial for example, during Sunday’s match. For all the potential that Holding and Calum Chambers have, they lack the know-how, the experience, the intelligence, the awareness, all the attributes that develop as a defender matures and learns the hard way.
Toprak only managed a 76% pass success rate last season, that is relative to how Leverkusen play in comparison to Arsenal. Koscielny (87%) and Mertesacker (89%) are much more reliable on the ball and Toprak would have to adapt his style to suit the Gunners ‘build from the back’ style of play. Crucially, in 17 league games last season, Toprak made 0 defensive errors. In terms of aerial ability, Toprak attempts more and wins more aerial duels than Mertesacker, but obviously being so much shorter (6ft 1′) he is not as ‘efficient’ as the German (wins 55% vs. Per 78%). He also won more tackles per 90 (1.79) than Koscielny (0.82) and Mertesacker (1.06) last term, but once again it is important to remember both teams play with different styles which can warp statistics.
The problem for Arsenal is that, if Toprak is viewed as a ‘cheaper’ alternative, they could be due more disappointment as Bayer Leverkusen are unlikely to part with their defender for any less than £30million, a similar asking price to Mustafi. That’s why personally I’d be more inclined to believe the Simon Kjaer link. Kjaer currently plays for Turkish club Fenerbache and would probably cost around £12million (he is also 27).