Ezequiel Garay the right move for Arsenal?


With a healthy Laurent Koscielny leading the back four, Arsenal had one of the Premier League’s most formidable defenses last season, and they first put the league on notice with a stellar away performance defensively against Manchester City, completely nullifying the creative threat that David Silva usually brings to the table. Kos was the star of the show, but Nacho Monreal proved to be an elite defensive presence on the left, Hector Bellerin’s pace allowed him to cut out plenty of attacks on the right, and the maligned Per Mertesacker finished with a solid season.

Despite the winter transfer of former Villarreal standout Gabriel Paulista, some still believe that Arsenal need to sign a high-caliber center back as an upgrade on Mertesacker, who is actually coming off of a solid season. He may be slow, but his awareness, tacking ability, play in the air, and calm presence on the ball are all valuable assets, though he does look far less reliable when he isn’t paired with Koscielny.

More from Arsenal FC

In any case, the rumor mill has Arsenal looking for defensive help, and the latest rumors have focused on Zenit CB Ezequiel Garay as a possible option, who is coming off of an equally strong season in Russia. According to Telegraph Sport, the Gunners are reportedly looking into Garay, “who would cost around £13million”.

While Garay is a solid player, it’s hard to see this rumor coming to fruition. Firstly, it’s hard to see Zenit parting ways with their best defender and one of their squad’s stars for such a small price, just as it’s hard to see Arsene Wenger spending significantly more than 13 million pounds. I mean, he already has a pretty darn good trio of defenders, and Gabriel is the type of ascending player who deserves playing time; Garay would simply take away his opportunities to shine at the Emirates.

Per Telegraph Sport, the Argentinian would like to move to a more respected league, because that would give him a better opportunity to establish himself as an unquestioned starter on the national team again. As of right now, he did start for Argentina in yesterday’s Copa America win and clean sheet over Colombia, but perhaps he’s looking for more safety with regards to his national team standing.

Last season, only Chelsea and Southampton (both teams whose defenses were touted as elite units) surrendered less goals than the Gunners, so it’s safe to say that Arsenal’s defense has quality. Three of their players were among WhoScored.com’s top ten players in interceptions per game, with rising defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin coming in first and the world-class Koscienly finishing in second place.

Garay is in the prime of his career at 28 and can still offer plenty of quality to a team’s defense. However, he doesn’t seem to be the kind of player Arsenal needs, since they should only sign a sure-fire upgrade. If they are going to sign someone who is so close in quality to Mertesacker, then they might as well sign someone younger, which is also a questionable route given that Gabriel is just 24 and oozes potential.

The only way I can see this rumor coming to fruition is if Arsenal end up losing Koscielny to Real Madrid, but that just doesn’t seem to be a realistic fear at this point in time. Center back rumors are worth monitoring at this point, but the Gunners are honestly fine at the back. Perhaps they can find someone better than Mertesacker, but he proved to be effective last year and is ideally a calm partner to a quick CB (a quick CB allows him to have time to read the game in front of him).

Although the price seems fair, it’s debatable if Garay is a real upgrade over Mertesacker, and since cohesiveness matters so much at the back, it’s hard to see Arsenal mixing things up defensively unless if they feel like they are truly getting a significantly better player.

If given the choice, I’d take Garay, but do Arsenal rate him significantly more than Mertesacker? I’m sure some fans do, but Mertesacker is still a valuable player despite his woeful lack of pace.

Next: Rooney Eyes The Title

More from Playing for 90