Should Unai Emery begin to wield his axe among the defenders that put Arsenal’s Champions League hopes to the sword last season, there would be few not fearing the chop after a shocking campaign for the Gunners backline.
But while the numbers suggest an all-round failure among the oft-breached defence last year, there may be some harshly treated in the transfer period as Emery looks to shape a more formidable rearguard ahead of the new season.
Arsenal are already stepping up their efforts to shore up their defence with the addition of Kieran Tierney at left-back – and with other defenders rumoured with Emirates arrivals, some current players may be packing their bags in the near future.
Those in the firing line from a Tierney arrival from Celtic would naturally be current left-backs Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal, but despite the latter turning 34 next year, Emery should not let concerns over age determine the future of his compatriot’s Arsenal career.
If anything, Kolasinac should be the more attractive sellable asset for The Gunners, particularly if Barcelona’s apparent interest – which has died down in recent weeks – was to resurface with a reported £20m bid being prepared for the Bosnian.
And while Monreal’s opportunities have gradually decreased since Kolasinac’s arrival, he was still able to provide one of his most productive seasons for Arsenal to date, with seven assists in all competitions within the same amount of appearances as Kolasinac – though almost half of those came at centre-back as The Gunners’ backline was stretched throughout the campaign.
With more Premier League experience and general versatility compared to Kolasinac, Monreal’s qualities would be of more use as backup to a fresh and hungry Tierney should he arrive.
Monreal’s higher goal-involvement rate from left-back and relatively newfound knack for scoring himself would provide Arsenal with a more prolific look to their refreshed backline, meaning failure to extend the Spaniard’s contract – which expires this weekend – will leave Emery an even taller task to improve the fortunes of the Gunners defence.
But with no new offer forthcoming, it looks as if the club are resigned to losing the player on a free despite seemingly having more to offer than partner Kolasinac.
It could turn out to be a huge error of judgement from the boss as this transfer window approaches a critical stage, with no incomings to report of at The Emirates and July on the near horizon.
So while it would be one thing to pass up the opportunity to cash in on Kolasinac, the decision to withhold his services over Monreal’s could leave Arsenal with the worst of both worlds.