Mikel Arteta can finally complete Arsenal transfer mission with Oleksandr Zinchenko replacement

Arsenal defender Oleksandr Zinchenko
-Credit: (Image: Grzegorz Wajda/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Since Mikel Arteta arrived at Arsenal there have been six players signed who can operate at left-back. In the summer before his arrival Kieran Tierney was purchased, taking the number used in that position to seven.

Nowhere else has Arteta failed to truly tie down players to his squad. There have been changes over time, but rarely have so many come in and been discarded as frequently as left-back.

Injuries have been a factor in this, so have changing styles. But it says plenty for Arsenal's struggles in the position that even after spending upwards of £35million in consecutive years on players able to do the role, they still entered this window with one in mind.

Jorrel Hato of Ajax is a player admired by the club. At 18 he is a different fit to the others, who are either versatile full-backs or centre-backs that can fill in out wide if needed. He is also younger than the type of player being sought by Edu Gaspar and the recruitment team.

It is noticeable though that the left-back with the most minutes last season was still Oleksandr Zinchenko. With less than 2,000 minutes in the league despite Jurrien Timber missing almost all of the campaign, it says a lot for the issues Arteta had.

Jakub Kiwior performed nobly throughout the middle period when Zinchenko and Takehiro Tomiyasu were injured, but he still only started 10 times, playing in 20. Timber, the club hope, will be back to have a big role in 2024/25 but even he is right-footed and doesn't totally suit the position.

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So despite the transfers and attempts to get things right, inverting and mixing up the style, it is a case of keeping their eye out again. With Euro 2024 kicking off over the weekend one of the standout players was Italy's Riccardo Calafiori.

Although he played a large part centrally for Bologna last term under Thiago Motta, Calafiori is more than capable when used on the left and demonstrated that against Albania in his opening game.

Although Italy were shocked early on, Luciano Spalletti's side responded, winning 2-1 after a first-half comeback. Controlling things from the back was Calafiori. Starting in a left centre-back role, the 22-year-old often drifted wide in possession and linked up seamlessly with Federico Dimarco and Nicolo Barella.

He was booked during the 90 minutes but impressed with his commanding aerial presence, snuffing out counterattacks and showing a variety of passing that has made him one of Europe's most promising. Calafiori only moved back to Italy last summer following a brief year at Basel, having come through the academy at Roma.

He spent time at Geneo on loan as well before being snapped up from Switzerland by Bologna, and is now already been tipped with a move. Valued at just £26million by Transfermarkt, Calafiori is one to watch and for Arsenal won't want to let a chance slide to pick him up if it were to arise.

The only issue? He's made himself open to Chelsea in the past. “I have two images: going back to Italy, perhaps in Rome," said Calafiori in 2022. "Or my dream would be to play in the Premier League. I really like West Ham or Chelsea.”

Only last week the Gunners were pushed in the direction of Calafiori though. Former Italy international Massimo Ambrosini said, “Riccardo Calafiori, from Bologna. He has had an incredible season.

"For me, he has everything to play at the top level and be in top Premier League squads in the future. He can play at centre-back, at left-back and under Thiago Motta in Bologna he started to move into midfield and even play like a striker, he has everything.

“He loves playing with the ball, Bologna were one of the first or second teams in the Italian league for possession so I think Arsenal would be perfect for him. He could play in the middle or on the left, maybe in Oleksandr Zinchenko’s role. It would be perfect for him.”