With Bacary Sagna heading off to Manchester City and Thomas Vermaelen, although he has denied the speculations linking him with a move to Manchester United, he might still end up joining the Old Trafford club. It leaves Arsenal in a position that they will definitely need a quality reinforcement at the back. Although Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have formed a solid partnership at centre back, they don’t really have a replacement, if Vermaelen does indeed move away from the club. And that is one reason why Arsenal’s reported move for Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic might be a good move for more reasons than one.
On first look, this move looks like a no-brainer. Jose Mourinho isn’t going to sell one of his side’s key defenders to a direct rival. Especially when he has a previous history of blocking players from going to Arsenal (Remember Demba Ba?). But the imminent arrival of Fillipe Luis from Atletico Madrid might mean that the Azplicueta will finally move to his preferred right back slot. The 24-year-old Spaniard has been one of Mourinho’s trusted on-field lieutenants in his second spell at Chelsea. And Although Chelsea have sold David Luiz, they have a readymade replacement in Kurt Zouma coming back from his loan spell.
All of which mean that the 30-year-old Serbian defender might just be let go off. As ridiculous as it may sound, given his age and the replacements available at the club, the Serbian might just be forced to move to pastures new, this summer. If he does decide to leave, Arsenal looks like the perfect destination for the tough-tackling Serbian defender.
Although it isn’t a done deal by any stretch of the imagination, signing him would boost Arsenal’s title hopes exponentially. As unlikely as that move may seem, it would be perfect for Arsenal. Here’s why.
Ivanovic started out as a strong and powerful centre back, but has recently transformed himself into a rampaging full back. His versatility means that not only do Arsenal get one of the League’s best full backs as their first choice, but also have the option of playing him in the centre as a replacement for either Mertesacker or Koscielny should get injured at any point next season.
The Serbian’s strong work-ethic coupled with his ability on the ball, going forward make him a great threat on the flanks. His strength and pace means that no attacker is likely to enjoy playing against him and that in turns adds to his credentials when he rampages forward with the ball. The Serbian created 29 chances for his team mates last season and has a passing percentage of 82%, something that is likely to endear him to Arsene Wenger.
Another reason is that the 30-year-old Serbian is also a goal threat in set pieces and is incredible in the air. Although the Gunners greatly improved on this last season, there is still plenty of room for improvement and the experienced Serbian defender would bring some much needed steel to the Arsenal back line, which, apart from the two centre backs, is largely inexperienced.
Although the Serbian has stated that centre back is his first-choice, he is having to play at right back at Chelsea and might not even get that next season if Chelsea complete the signing of Luis. The lure of first-team football, even if it is at right back might prove to be too hard to miss for the Serbian who is in desperate of first-team football.
Strong, committed, good on the ground and excellent in the air, Ivanovic would represent a coup for the Gunners, especially if they can get him for £7 million, which is the price being quoted for him. Given his experience and ability, both going forward and at the back, Ivanovic looks like the perfect replacement for Sagna.
While Arsenal do have other options, such as the highly impressive 21-year-old Toulouse right back Serge Aurier, Ivanovic presents an immediate solution. Given his relative cheap price, they might even be able to buy Aurier and groom him under the tutelage of Ivanovic, until he is ready to take over in the first-team.
However, one thing to be understood is that all of this is only a dream, it will only become a reality if Mourinho chooses to let him go. Which, given his reluctance to sell to the Gunners is highly unlikely. But, as they say, stranger things have happened. After all, who could have predicted Fabregas moving to Chelsea this summer? Given everything that has happened so far, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Ivanovic moves the other way. If he does, then Arsenal might just go from pretenders to contenders for the Premier League title.
Stats via squawka