The defensive depth available to Arteta is in need of refreshing, with David Luiz and Sokratis the two oldest players in Arsenal’s squad, and concerns over the long-term fitness of Rob Holding and Calum Chambers.
174 – There were just 174 seconds between Liverpool opening the scoring and West Ham equalising through Issa Diop. Quickfire.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 24, 2020
Accordingly, Arteta has identified French international Diop, according to the Mirror, as the man to lead a defensive renaissance at the Emirates Stadium.
Diop has been part of one of the league’s most porous defences in a season where West Ham have found themselves embroiled in a relegation battle. But the Frenchman’s own form has been strong throughout, and he impressed in West Ham’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal last weekend.
West Ham, if they stay up, would likely ask for at least twice the £22.5m they paid Toulouse for Diop, but there is a consensus amongst the Arsenal hierarchy that a cut-price deal would be possible if the Hammers were relegated.
Were he to join, he’d link up with 18-year-old centre-back William Saliba, who is currently earning rave reviews for his performances at St-Étienne. He’s already on Arsenal’s books, but was loaned back to the Ligue 1 side after the Gunners saw off north London rivals Tottenham to conclude a £27m deal.
Saliba isn’t the only young talent that Arsenal appear to be placing their long-term faith in. Kieran Tierney, often hampered by injury this season, joined last summer from Celtic, while Héctor Bellerin and Pablo Mari also have the best years of their career ahead of them. Bukayo Saka, meanwhile, has been a shining light since breaking through into the side.
But moving players in likely means that some will need to go. It’s looking increasingly likely that
this will be Sokratis’ final season at the Emirates, while World Cup winner Shkodran Mustafi may be another set for the exit door with his contract expiring next summer.