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Riccardo Calafiori Arsenal transfer impact on William Saliba as Mikel Arteta unlocks dream defence

Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba have built a strong centre-back partnership under Mikel Arteta
-Credit: (Image: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)


Arsenal could tie up a move for Italian defender Riccardo Calafiori as early as this week, but it's unlikely to come at the expense of William Saliba or Gabriel Magalhaes in Mikel Arteta's backline.

Calafiori impressed many suitors with his resolute defensive displays at UEFA Euro 2024, and the 22-year-old has even drawn comparisons to his fellow countrymen Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini for his seemingly effortless performances.

The defender helped Bologna to a historic fourth-placed finish in Serie A last season, securing them a Champions League spot in the process, and he now appears on the verge of a move to North London.

Arteta’s side already boasted the best defence in the country, conceding just 29 goals in 38 games last season, with both Saliba and Gabriel performing admirably as Arsenal narrowly missed out on Premier League glory. Similar to the last campaign, Arsenal will be fighting on four fronts in 2024-25, meaning squad depth will pivotal if they have title aspirations.

If the Gunners do secure the Italian's signature it will likely provide a fix at left-back, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Jakub Kiwior both struggling to make that position their own last season. The former Basel and Roma man, who flourished under the tutelage of Thiago Motta, has switched seamlessly between left-back and centre-back throughout his career, and has even been used in midfield.

That versatility will come in handy for Arteta, who can continue to rely on his favoured centre-back paring while also strengthening his already impressive back line.

Former Bologna and Roma director of football Walter Sabatini said: “It’s a disaster when strong young players like him leave our championship. €45 million as a valuation is a huge sum but the defenders were paid even more.

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“I think it’s the minimum for someone like him: left-footed, physically imposing, authoritative and with personality in the game.

“Let’s remember what he did in the 96th minute against Croatia: he came out with the ball at his feet, ran forty meters, took on the defence and passed the ball. These are plays if you only do if you have quality and courage and the courage to take risks and to sink the action is something only great players have”.