With the new arrivals of Martin Ødegaard, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares and Ben White, Mikel Arteta has managed to cover most of the cracks that were starting to split open last season. However, one position that hasn't been covered yet is the right-back position.
Against Brentford and Chelsea, Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares respectively have struggled to make a real impact and have often made crucial errors leading to goals. Take the Chelsea game on Sunday afternoon for example where Cedric played Reece James on to allow Romelu Lukaku to tap in his first goal after signing for Chelsea in under 15 minutes.
The question now is that The Gunners are entering the crunch time of the transfer window, and must decide whether they can go forward with one of the many options they have in the club, or opt to buy an alternative who can perform better. Below is an analysis of some options that we have in the squad already, in the ranks of the academy, or available for a realistic price.
The 26-year-old looked like the No.1 option for Arsenal's vacant right-back spot after Hector Bellerin looked set to pursue other options outside of North London. Calum has one thing that the other contenders don't have which is versatility. He can play right-back, centre back and in the CDM role as seen in his short stint on loan at Fulham when they were in the Premier League. This means he is capable of playing in a 3,4 and 5 back defence, which makes him a key asset for the unknown tactic that Arteta may field to rival other teams. However, his performance against Brentford was disappointing and was too easily split apart by two pacy attackers in Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo. If Arsenal aren't to spend a bit more to buy a defender from the market, he may be the best choice that we have.
It's best to say that Cedric Soares is not the fan favourite to start in this role at the Emirates. The Portuguese man was brought in from Southampton in 2020 after an immediate loan deal as a backup replacement. Since then, no proper right-back was brought in and Cedric is now a firm part of the utility right-backs that we have in the squad. A factor that would lead Arteta to pick the 29-year-old is his experience, but sometimes it is at a heavy cost. He often too easily loses his marker and in the attacking phase is weak as well. If Mikel is looking to field an experienced squad, Cedric is the choice but with his form right now, the only competition he should play in is the Carabao Cup starting with West Brom on Wednesday.
Ainsley Maitland Niles:
Ainsley hasn't featured since his tenure at West Brom last season, where he wasn't able to save them from relegation. Maitland Niles has always been adamant that he would love to play in his preferred position in the central midfield but has been used a lot by Arsenal in the right-back slot. After a run in the first-team squad and spells on loan elsewhere, this season is a matter of 'make or break' for the 23-year-old. At the start of the season, Maitland Niles was not most people's choice for the role but after the lacklustre performances by his teammates, it could mean he'll be given a chance in the next few games to come. A key attribute that Ainsley has is his distribution which is important considering the errors that lead to goals in the last campaign and the first few games this season. He averages 52 passes a game, with an 89% pass completion accuracy which is a good sign already. It'll be interesting to see when called upon if he succeeds or whether it is a case of offloading him whilst he holds some value on the market.
Zak has put in some consistent performances for the U23s since his arrival, and although it's not the Premier League, he can score goals from his position. This is the riskiest candidate since Swanson has never been promoted to the first squad yet, but since the spot is open for anyone the 20-year-old could be given a chance in the domestic competitions. In 2 matches in the PL2, he already has a goal under his tally. His play style is very similar to Calum Chambers, where he can play centre back and full back as well as dropping into the midfield at times as well. A perfect chance for him could be this Wednesday, depending on whether Arteta opts for a youthful side or a full starting eleven. No, this isn't the No.1 option but a good contender to have in the ranks of Hale End.
The VFL Wolfsburg man was impressive last season which resulted in many fans drawing up rumours to bring him to North London. Ridle can play in a 3 or 4 back defence and has been playing in the right wing-back position for the Bundesliga side. At 23 years of age, he would be a good addition to the side and fits all the targets that are required in the position. He won't come at a very cheap price and the fee could be raised to around £30million if they look to pursue him in the last week of the window. He already has a goal in his first two fixtures in the Bundesliga and one of his many strengths is his aerial ability. Aerial ability is something that has been missing, especially in the Brentford match where Ben White struggled to win any headers and the Bees exploited that weakness to increase their lead. With only a week to go in the window, more rumours will certainly draw up and if Baku isn't to leave now he will surely be gone in the coming years.
So, whether it is in the first-team squad, the academy ranks or even playing elsewhere in Europe, Arsenal need a right-back urgently. Hopefully in the next few weeks, this issue will be resolved and The Gunners can get back to winning ways.