Arsenal transfer news: Mikel Arteta chasing summer signings with defender needed to follow Declan Rice
Mikel Arteta wants to bolster his squad this summer — and Wednesday night showed why a new centre-back should be high on his shortlist.
Arsenal’s defence were terrorised by Manchester City’s attack, as Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne combined to devastating effect.
Between them, the pair contributed three of City’s four goals, and it would have been more had it not been for Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
At least one new midfielder is the Gunners’ priority ahead of the summer transfer window and West Ham captain Declan Rice is their top target. On the evidence of the game at the Etihad Stadium, however, Arsenal also need reinforcements in defence if they are to compete on multiple fronts next season.
The absence of the injured William Saliba has been felt over the past weeks, but especially so against City.
Rob Holding has shown himself to be a solid performer for Arsenal in the Europa League and cup competitions, however, when thrust into the heat of a title race, he has struggled.
The drop-off from Saliba to Holding has been stark and, given Arsenal officially qualified for the Champions League last night after Brighton lost to Nottingham Forest, that must be addressed in the summer.
Arteta has rotated less than any other manager in the top flight this season, mainly because in the first half of the campaign he had the luxury of being able to play a totally different XI in the Europa League. That will not be the case in the Champions League next year, and there needs to be greater depth in the squad, especially at centre-back, if Arsenal are to avoid burning out.
The Gunners have seen the value of adding genuine competition, with the signing of Leandro Trossard. He has made significant contributions during this title race, while his arrival has also pushed Gabriel Martinelli to rediscover his best form.
The same, however, has not been the case in defence, and centre-back Jakub Kiwior has played just 14 minutes of Premier League football since joining in January. It will be argued Kiwior is one for the future, but he is a year older than Saliba.
The issue for Arteta is that his third best centre-back, Ben White, is also his right-back. Indeed, had Takehiro Tomiyasu not injured his knee last month and been ruled out for the season, one suspects White would have been shifted across during these run of games.
Arsenal have conceded 14 goals in six games since Saliba has been out and a lack of defensive solidity has contributed to their title charge slowing down.
The Gunners have undoubtedly made huge strides this season but, as they enter the next phase of this project under Arteta, they must kick on.
City demonstrated how they remain the benchmark in the Premier League and so much of that is down to their incredible squad depth.
It will not be easy, but Arsenal must try and replicate that if they are to make the next step.