Mikel Arteta will want to continue strengthening his Arsenal side this summer, in what could prove to be a very important transfer window for the Spaniard’s managerial career. Arteta will have already earmarked certain players whom he is keen on bringing to the Emirates this summer, and amongst that list will certainly be a right-back, a position Arsenal no doubt need to strengthen.
The right-back position at Arsenal has been under scrutiny for some time since Hector Bellerin’s ACL injury. Since Bellerin’s injury in January 2019, which ruled him out for 11 months in total, a host of players have been tested at right-back. This list includes the likes of Ainsley Maitland Niles, Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares, who all have found it difficult to cement their place in the team. Arsenal’s change in shape, and style of football over the years, has also meant the dynamics of the right-back role have changed quite a bit too. In today’s day and age of football, a technically gifted full-back, with an athletic build is one of the most sought-after players. We have seen the role of full-back evolve massively over the last few years, with the likes of Marcelo, Andy Robertson, Joao Cancelo, Alphonso Davies and Kyle Walker all ticking the boxes most managers would be looking for in their ideal full-back.
Unfortunately for Hector Bellerin, it looks inevitable that his time at Arsenal will likely come to an end soon, with the Spaniard having been reported to being open for a new challenge, and constantly linked with a move away from Arsenal. The potential suitors; PSG, Barcelona and Juventus. Bellerin’s style of play hasn’t really changed, however, the demands of both Arteta and the role asked of him seem to be too much for the Spaniard. Despite being fit for most of the season, Bellerin has found himself in and out of the team, with Cedric Soares battling it out for the starting position. Although Cedric was bought in as likely cover for Bellerin, he has taken his opportunities when given them and looks as if he could be Arteta’s preferred right-back at this moment in time. In addition to this, Ainsley Maitland-Niles looks set to leave Arsenal this summer, so should Hector Bellerin move this summer, Arsenal will have no option but to bring in a new right-back.
With Arteta likely wanting to strengthen this position in the summer, below I look at three right-backs Arsenal should try to sign this summer.
1 – Achraf Hakimi
Still only 22-years old, Inter Milan’s right-back Hakimi should be on the top of Mikel Arteta’s list this summer. Despite only signing for Inter last summer, the Moroccan full-back has been linked with a move to Arsenal over the last few months in a deal that could be worth up to a reported £42.5million in total. The full-backs resume speaks for itself, with him enjoying spells at Real Madrid and a brilliant ‘breakthrough season’ at Borussia Dortmund, where he was on loan. Hakimi’s main strengths are his ability to carry the ball at a fast pace, whilst also possessing incredible athletic attributes making him one of the quickest players in world football. Hakimi has been instrumental in Inter Milan’s title charge this season and has contributed 6 goals and 5 assists.
Fast and capable of a quick turn, Hakimi is incredibly effective on the counter-attack, as he has shown for Inter Milan throughout the season. Last season, in Europe’s top 5 leagues, Hakimi hit a speed of 36.48 kmph, second only to Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies who clocked in at 36.51. Hakimi’s ability to outrun most of his opponents is a huge strength for Inter Milan as they tend to use him as an outlet for attacks, most notably on the counter-attack.
Whilst Hakimi’s main strengths come in the form of attack, he has also shown his defensive capabilities this season and helped Inter to keep the most clean sheets (11) in Serie A. Only 1 player in the Inter Milan squad has registered more tackles in their own defensive third than Hakimi has. The Moroccan’s defensive skills would have also certainly improved under Italian boss Antonio Conte, who is known for his defensive nature and style of play.
Hakimi would be a great fit for Arteta’s Arsenal, as he possesses the skills required to play in a position that demands so much both offensively and defensively. The 22-year old has demonstrated his capability to play out from the back, whilst also having the perfect balance in attack and defence. Hakimi has also played as part of a three, four and five throughout his time at Madrid, Dortmund and Inter, so would be a great player for Arteta to strengthen his back-line.
2 – Tariq Lamptey
As reported by various credible sources, Arsenal are closely monitoring Brighton’s right-back Tariq Lamptey, whom Arteta and Arsenal seem a big admirer of. Since his transfer to Brighton in January 2020, Lamptey has impressed on most occasions in the Premier League. The England u21 stars tenacious style of play, combined with his brilliant attacking prowess has made him a revelation in the Premier League this season, with many noticing his qualities both offensively and defensively. It’s difficult to imagine the fee Arsenal would have to pay to secure Lamptey’s services, however, it would certainly be a cheaper option than the likes of Achraf Hakimi who Arsenal also seem interested in.
Despite their position of 16th in the Premier League table this season, Graham Potter has his Brighton side playing some brilliant football, which at times has been exceptional to watch. Brighton’s ability to play out from the back, and build from this has been there for all to see this season and has certainly made them enjoyable to watch. Only eight teams in the Premier League average higher possession per game than Brighton this season, which will certainly be something Arteta will be looking at, whilst trying to implement his possession-based style of football at Arsenal.
Lamptey would certainly bring a new sense of hunger to the right-back position at Arsenal, which arguably has been missing for some time, and as he is still only 20-years old, would be a player for the future which Arteta would certainly look to develop. Unfortunately for Lamptey, he has only made 11 appearances this season in the Premier League for Brighton due to a hamstring injury he picked up in December. The injury now requires surgery, which has ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Despite playing only 11 games this season, before his injury Lamptey averaged the 2nd most tackles per game in the Brighton side (1.5 tackles per game), whilst picking up 1 assist and 1 goal.
Lamptey’s height and physical build is something a lot of people questioned when he was signed by Brighton, however, this hasn’t seemed to have hindered his progression in the role. In addition to this, with age comes the development of physical attributes, which Lamptey would be aware of given the nature and demands of the Premier League.
With Lamptey’s roots being one of a Chelsea background, he will certainly have the technical capability to fit into Arsenal’s style of football, and more importantly Mikel Arteta’s plans moving forward. Coming up in the Chelsea academy with the likes of Mason Mount, Reece James, Billy Gilmour and Tino Anjorin is a testament to Lamptey, who made the bold decision to take his football elsewhere in order to develop as a Premier League player, which is something which looks to have been the correct decision.
With Lamptey having already proven he can do it in the Premier League this season, he may be Arsenal’s safest option on paper, both financially and physically.
3 – Emerson Royal
Arsenal may look to add to their Brazilian contingent this summer, with Real Betis right-back Emerson Royal. The 22-year old was once heavily linked with Arsenal in his Atletico Mineiro days, however the move never materialised. Emerson is having an exceptional season at Real Betis, and has shown why some of Europe’s elite clubs would be interested in signing him.
Unlike many modern day full-backs, Emerson stands at nearly 6ft tall, whilst still possessing exceptional physical attributes which help him play the role so well. Physicality is always an attribute which is highlighted when foreign imports come to the Premier League, and Emerson looks to be a player who would tick all the boxes, and naturally adapt to the physical demands of the Premier League.
In addition to this, Emerson averages an incredible 2.8 tackles per game this season in La Liga, which is significantly higher than any defender Arsenal currently has. Whilst being able to contribute defensively, Emerson is not shy to get forward and support in attacks when required. The Brazilian has registered 4 assists this season and averages 1.2 key passes per game, which in simple terms means he is capable of creating goalscoring opportunities for attacking players around him.
Mikel Arteta has a certain style of play which in turn means, he will only be looking for certain players whom he believes can meet these demands. Arguably, one of the most important factors Arteta will be looking for is a defender who can resist the press, whilst still being able to play out from the back. Emerson may meet the criteria for this, as the Real Betis side he currently plays in are a team who encourage playing out from the back, as can be seen through their possession statistics this year. Only 3 teams in La Liga average higher possession per game than Betis, which is something Arteta will certainly be looking for when looking at his next possible right-back.
Emerson may also come at an affordable price for Arsenal, whom publicly have always shared their financial struggles. Emerson’s current market value as per Transfermarkt is €25m, which for a player currently aged 22, with clear room for development may be a fair price, and one which Arsenal may take advantage of. Overall, Emerson ticks a lot of boxes Arteta seems to be looking for in a right-back, and would come from a club who has a clear possession based style of football implemented, meaning the transition may not be too difficult.