It’s no surprise to anyone that Arsenal are in need of another solid defensive option to give them some added depth in the heart of their defense, which at times can prove to be a bit fragile. I’m a big fan of the Gabriel and Koscielny partnership, but if one of them goes down with an injury, we then need to turn our attention to either Calum Chambers, who I’m not yet sold on, or Per Mertesacker. While the German has helped significantly since joining the club, his lack of pace is just too much of a liability against most clubs, especially in the Premier League.
As every transfer window comes to a close, Arsenal supporters like myself are left wondering why the hell Arsene Wenger didn’t sign a central defender. It’s not like there aren’t any out there, I just think we are too busy looking for that perfect diamond, that we miss out on those who are right in front of us.
Some of you may disagree with me, but hear me out.
For a long time now, I’ve been a fan of Southampton’s Jose Fonte. He not only brings a positive presence on the pitch, but he’s a great leader, which is something Arsenal could use more of. Sometimes you need a few players in the squad who are not afraid to tell their teammates to get their head out of their arse. He can bring that to the table and more. He has pace, he reads the game well, he’s physical, and… he will run through opposing players to get his head on the ball. None of this sh*t like Mertesacker who I believe is the tallest on the squad, yet his vertical leap is about -0.2cm. Does that not annoy anyone else?
After going unnoticed for quite sometime, the Southampton captain has finally broken into the Portuguese National Team, having started his first match at Euro 2016 in Portugal’s hard fought 0-1 victory over Croatia. His second start for the Seleção came on Thursday, in yet another match that came down to the wire. Fonte put in another solid performance, winning 100% of his aerial battles (5), forming a solid partnership at the back with Pepe.
One argument that I’m sure will come up is his age. Yes, I know he’s 32 years old, turning 33 in December, but I can think of quite a few defenders who have gone on to play well into their mid to late 30’s without any issues.
Statistically, having played at Southampton, his numbers are very comparable to those of Gabriel, Mertesacker and even Koscielny.
In 37 appearances, the Southampton captain came away with a performance score of 822 according to our friends over at Squawka. I’m not sure if that really means much, but he’s contributing on average nine defensive actions per match, which as you’ll see below, is similar to Koscielny, and slightly higher than Gabriel. He won 57% of his duels, which is higher than Gabriel and Koscielny, yet significantly lower than Mertesacker (73% in 24 appearances). Someone may want to review that number, I’m not sure that’s accurate.
Of that 53%, Fonte won 89 of 131 aerial duels, while Gabriel won 49 of 80, and 103 of 158 for Koscielny. When it comes to one on one defending, Koscielny came out on top ten of eleven times, Gabriel won three of four, and Fonte won both his one on one battles. Solid numbers across the board if you ask me.
His pass accuracy came in at 84%, while making an average pass of 22m. Gabriel and Koscielny have a higher percentage, but they are making slightly shorter passes, which makes sense seeing as Arsenal will play out of the back, and at times their buildup can be slow, leading to more ball circulation in their defensive third.
All three Arsenal defenders in question had two defensive errors according to Squawka, but I’m assuming that’s an average? I say that because there is no way in hell any of these four only had two or three defensive errors all season. Mertesacker can easily average that over two appearances, maybe even one. Sorry BFG, I still love you!
Hopefully you’re still onboard with my thought process here, if not, don’t turn away just yet!
Fonte’s contract expires at the end of the 2018 season, having signed an extension in October of 2015. The fact that he’s the captain of the club could inflate his price tag a little bit, but seeing as he’s going to turn 33 at the end of the season, I think if the right offer comes in for the Portuguese defender, Southampton will be willing to listen. Not to mention Ronald Koeman left the club, which could help pulling him away from the Saints.
Is he going to be the savior for Arsenal? Most likely not, but he will sure as hell offer stability, and to be honest, he could even give Arsene Wenger a headache in terms of selecting his two best options. Again, I like Gabriel and Koscielny, but I also think that Fonte and Koscielny would really work well together.
In terms of a transfer fee, we all know English clubs like to inflate prices, so seeing as he’s the captain, I’ll say we put him around £15m – £18m. I think if Arsenal came knocking on his door, I’m not sure he’d be able to say no to a bigger club or Champions League footy, and at that point, Southampton gets what they can for him, or they could risk having a very disgruntled skipper.
Now, does anyone agree with me?! Bueller?! Share your thoughts below!