After wrapping up the transfer of Granit Xhaka in late May, Arsenal zeroed in on Jamie Vardy and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
However, Manchester United’s spending capacity and the Vardy’s commitment to Leicester City coupled with injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista ensured signing a defender became Arsenal’s priority this summer.
Despite the Gunners scouting truckloads of centre-backs such as Jonny Evans, Omer Toprak and Djibril Sidibe, among others, no rumour has ended in fruition, rendering the Emirates Stadium faithful hopeless ahead of what will likely be a long season.
They are now linked with long-term United target Jose Fonte, with the player reportedly willing to depart Southampton despite signing a three-year contract only last summer.
Do Arsenal need him?
Laurent Koscielny and Rob Holding combined to produce one of the most resilient defensive displays Arsenal have produced in the recent times against the Foxes last Saturday.
Calum Chambers sat out the fixture as the veteran French defender skippered the squad.
On paper, Arsenal have a packed defence, especially with Gabriel pencilled in to return after nine competitive outings, in mid-October.
However, besides Koscielny and an ageing Mertesacker, Arsene Wenger currently has no defender at his disposal, who boasts the experience and prowess to pocket the likes of Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Arsenal should bring down a defender before the transfer window slams shut to ensure Arsenal do not ship goals as easily as they did against Liverpool.
Given Fonte’s age, experience in the Premier League and undoubted talent, he may prove the perfect stopgap answer until Arsenal scout a to quality centre-back in the coming transfer windows.
Will he fit in?
The Portuguese defender has considerable experience on the English soil having played ten complete seasons across three different divisions with Crystal Palace and Southampton.
Known for his passing abilities, Fonte will likely complement Arsenal’s playing style.
Standing at only an inch taller than Koscielny, he will likely not be as big an aerial threat as Mertesacker, but Holding and Chambers may learn a thing or two from the European Championship winner.
Will he depart Southampton?
As things stand, only United and Arsenal are pursuing his signature, and at 32, only these two clubs present Fonte what will likely be his final opportunity to play Champions League – although a move to Old Trafford will delay his Champions League debut at least by one more season.
However, with his compatriot, Jose Mourinho, at the helm at United, Fonte may fancy shifting his residence to Manchester should he ever decide to break ties with Southampton.
With Jorge Mendes — an agent Arsenal have hardly done business with due to a multitude of reasons — representing the player, United seem the likely destination.
Do Arsenal have alternatives lined up?
Despite the West Bromwich Albion top shelves announcing Evans will not be sold this summer, Arsenal could still sign the former United castaway in the event of their sending £25 million the other way.
Besides, Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi is also available, with his club looking to offload a few players to make room for their new arrivals.
Although world-class players like Rafael Varane are currently not available, unlike strikers, good centre-backs are still available in good numbers.
Perhaps, Wenger is eyeing at an eleventh-hour bargain deal for Mustafi, but the 13-time English champions desperately need signings to ensure their participation in the Champions League next season.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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