There’s very little to shout about in Arsenal’s defensive ranks right now. Over 50 goals conceded in the league alone last season, the backline is currently dominated by defenders the wrong side of 30, with the side’s best arguably spending the last campaign on loan at other clubs.
As for the future, reinforcing the Arsenal rearguard is likely to be top of Unai Emery’s to-do list during this summer’s transfer window, with outgoings expected throughout a squad that massively underperformed – particularly towards the end of last season as their Champions League tilt dramatically faltered.
But the answer to allaying some of their defensive distresses may lie in-house. Krystian Bielik spent last year helping send Charlton Athletic back to the Championship, and is looking to cap a marvellous season with The Addicks by taking Poland to European Championship glory – scoring in the Under-21’s 3-2 win over Belgium on Sunday evening.
And with funds at a premium this summer, along with the desperate need for defensive reinforcement, Bielik certainly on the face of it, provides The Gunners with a money-friendly alternative to the kind of quality they are supposedly looking for in Saint-Etienne youngster William Saliba.
Arsenal should be thanking the gods above that this rising talent is already theirs. He may only have made two senior appearances since signing in 2015, but with the position the club are in, Bielik’s form over the past 12 months is certainly worth a risk-free gamble for Arsenal, with funds able to be reallocated elsewhere as a result.
If that’s the difference between going the extra mile to secure the signature of Yannick Carrasco or a further midfield addition, the youngster’s rise to prominence could hardly have been timed better in Arsenal’s hour – or summer – of need.
The Polish international showcased his strengths at both ends of the pitch in helping Charlton towards promotion, scoring four times – including in their play-off victory over Doncaster Rovers – in a side only bettered defensively by Barnsley in League One last season.
It makes sense that taking a chance for free on Bielik would mean more resources with which to fill the squad ahead of the new season – something Arsenal can ill afford to waste – thus making a spot for his inclusion in Emery’s plans next year a fairly shrewd move.
Calum Chambers will also return to the Gunners squad after being named as Fulham’s best player in their own disastrous season, and with both of those players also capable in defensive midfield, suddenly the team can start to reverse their fortunes of late and plan for the future without having to get the chequebook out.
Whether Bielik will have even entered the thoughts of the Arsenal boss remains to be seen, although their pursuit of other young defensive targets may suggest otherwise – but it would seem daft to let a readymade solution to Arsenal’s problems go.