For years, Arsenal’s struggles have been amplified by their defensive woes, the attack was always formidable, let down by the errors in defence.
In the latter stages of Arsene Wenger’s reign the club continuously failed to keep clean-sheets and were unable to match the high standards of defence set by the other top sides.
However, for the season that has just passed, Mikel Arteta seemed to reverse this problem, with only Manchester City and Chelsea conceding less. A mixture of experience and new signings seemed to do the trick for the Spaniard.
The Brazilian pairing of David Luiz and Gabriel Magalhaes offered a calmness at the back, helping strengthen the spine of the team. Although Luiz had his error-prone moments, he has become a stalwart for Arsenal this season. He offered the winning mentality, one that the other members of the defence could not.
Rob Holding, Pablo Mari and Callum Chambers combined to make up the other centre-backs. This strength-in-depth formed into Arsenal’s strongest asset of the season, which would have come as a surprise to many.
Nonetheless Luiz’s Arsenal career has come to an end, and the Gunners will need to replace. This is where Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Edmond Tapsoba comes in.
What does he offer?
Tapsoba has been an integral part of the Leverkusen defence this season, making 38 appearances across all competitions and keeping ten clean sheets.
With Luiz having left the club, Arsenal will also be losing his long-balls and passing speciality, this does not come often within centre-backs.
Though, this is an asset that the Burkinabe international offers too. He falls into the 99th percentile for long passes completed and for medium passes completed (compared to centre-backs within the European top five leagues).
However, this is not the only area that Tapsoba strives in. His naturally defensive mind is demonstrated by his statistics, having 2.32 tackles per 90 minutes and 2.27 blocks. These fall into the 89th and 93rd percentile, respectively.
Arsenal will be looking for a defender who fulfils these qualities and Tapsoba ticks all of the boxes. There has been success with Luiz utilising these longballs for the past season thus he becomes a big loss for the North London side.
Arsenal’s attacking fullbacks in Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin have been able to widen the pitch with runs in behind the opposite defence that Luiz has been able to find, giving the Gunners the upper hand in attacks.
Many Arsenal fans will not be too familiar with Tapsoba, but he has played at the Emirates Stadium before. Tapsoba lined-up against the North London side in their 2019/20 Europa League campaign for Vitoria SC.
The match was settled by two late freekicks by substitute Nicolas Pepe, but it can be remembered as a frustrating evening for the home side.
The 22-year-old centre-back was strong in shutting down Alexandre Lacazette and looked composed on the ball. His display was overlooked as Pepe stole the show, but he was quietly confident throughout.
There will be competition from other Premier League sides for his signature, with Manchester United and Chelsea both set to rival Arsenal for his services.
His contract currently runs until 2026, however Sport Bild speculates that an offer of around €50 million could tempt Leverkusen into selling.
Arsenal’s lack of European football for next season may make them unlikely candidates for Tapsoba’s next move, but his potential is undeniable and a move to the Premier League might just be what he needs.