The Scout Report: Three Defenders Arsenal Should Target

With Gabriel now gone, Calum Chambers repeatedly linked with an exit, Rob Holding dropped to the under 23’s and full-backs playing the back three, Arsenal clearly need another central defender.

However, it would appear that unsuccessfully chasing Thomas Lemar is Arsene Wenger’s main priority so, I’ve decided to pick out three defenders from across Europe who would add solidity to the Gunners defence.

Willi Orban, Red Bull Leipzig

The 24-year-old was a stalwart for RB Leipzig throughout their first season in the Bundesliga, shocking Germany and finishing runners-up behind Bayern Munich.

Taking the captains armband on occasion last season and being named skipper for the 2017/18 season, the defender is a leader on the pitch, something Arsenal desperately need.

Despite not being the tallest at 6ft 1in, the German won 65% of his aerial duels in the German top flight with this percentage including three headed goals in his 28 Bundesliga appearances in 2016/17.

Orban is also strong in the tackle, winning 57 compared to 46 lost while also making 11 blocks for Leipzig. However, he can be rash, committing 31 fouls, picking up eight yellow cards and one red last campaign.

His most impressive stats are his interceptions and clearances, with a 65 and 148 respectively.

The sheer number of clearances make him a standout for me, averaging just over five per 90 minutes. During Arsenal’s 4-3 win against Leicester on the opening day of the season, giving the ball away at the back rather than clearing it up field almost caused the Gunners to throw away all three points.

A no-nonsense defender is exactly what we need.

Orban is capable of playing from the back as well, completing 81% of his passes for Leipzig last season.

Only one error leading to a goal in 16/17 is an impressive and important stat also.

Valued at just over £7 million by transfermarkt, Leipzig would likely demand around £20 million for their captain but, in the modern market that represents good value for money.

Stefan de Vrij, Lazio

A powerful defender with a good turn of pace, the Dutch international looks to have the perfect skill set needed to operate in a back three.

With a great positional sense, the 25-year-old is a great reader of the game, making 60 interceptions during his 27 Serie A appearances last season.

De Vrij is strong in the tackle both centrally and in the wide areas, winning 42 and losing 36. He also made 14 blocks in the Italian top flight last campaign.

Despite wanting to get stuck in at every opportunity, he is clean tackler, making just 22 fouls last campaign, picking up only three yellows cards and not a single red.

Similarly to Orban, he can both play from the back and clear the ball when required.

His 86% pass accuracy is very impressive, while his 119 clearances – averaging at 4.7 per 90 minutes – is even more so.

The Dutchman is also fairly dominant aerially, winning just under 60% of his aerial duels in 16/17.

De Vrij even managed two goals and three assists for Lazio last campaign, impressive stats for a central defender.

In the home of defensive football, the 25-year-old has excelled but gone relatively unnoticed with the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci taking the limelight.

Transfermarkt appear to have taken notice though, valuing him at £24.5 million.

Aymeric Laporte, Athletic Bilbao

The Frenchman has long been regarded as one of the best young defenders in the world, with Barcelona being long term admirers.

The 23-year-old has been a consistent performer since making his first-team debut in 2012 and could make the big move he deserves soon.

Standing at 6ft 2in tall, Laporte is aerially dominant, winning a hugely impressive 70% of his headers last season in La Liga.

He is not as good in the tackle as Orban and de Vrij – winning 41 and losing 53 – but he rarely gives away fouls, committing just 29 in 33 games and picking up only 10 bookings and no red cards.

Laporte’s other defensive stats highlight just how good of a defender he is, making 66 interception, 18 blocks and 121 clearances.

Per 90 minutes, he makes 2.07 interceptions and 3.8 clearances, very impressive numbers.

While he knows to clear the ball when needed, his distribution from the back his highly accurate, completing 84% of his passes in 2016/17.

He also managed two goals last campaign.

Probably his most important stat is zero defensive errors leading to goals.

Valued at £22.5 million by transfermarkt, Bilbao would likely demand around £40 million for their young defensive starlet, a fair fee for a top class defender with a bright future ahead of him.

About the Author

Dan Mountney
Hi, I'm Dan and I'm currently studying Sports Journalism at the University for the Creative Art in Farnham, Surrey. I have supported Arsenal all my life and grew up watching arguably the greatest generation of players the club has ever had. I hope my love for the club comes across in my writing and that you enjoy what you've read from me!