Having conceded five against Liverpool, and 31 goals in total in only 21 games this season, it’s understandable that Unai Emery is looking to shore up what is clearly still a shaky Arsenal defence.
Having dismissed links with Gary Cahill and others, there now seems to be a clear target for Emery: Torino and Cameroon centre-back Nicolas N’Koulou.
According to various Italian outlets, Emery has identified the 28-year-old as a potential solution to Arsenal’s defensive woes, and not without good reason.
If you compare N’Koulou’s stats versus those of Arsenal’s centre-back stalwart Shkodran Mustafi this season, he would appear a clear upgrade in many areas – per game, N’koudou beats Mustafi 2.1 vs 1.9 on interceptions, 0.9 vs 0.5 on blocks, and has only been dribbled past 0.2 times per game vs Mustafi’s 0.4 times.
Bear in mind N’Koulou is playing in a team with far less resource and quality than Arsenal, that kind of improved solidity could prove invaluable to the Gunners, as they look to return to the top four this campaign.
Just as important is the Cameroonian’s experience playing in a back three, a system which Emery has invariably favoured this season. Torino’s 3-4-3 system is similar to that which Emery would ideally like to employ, but which has to date suffered from a lack of central option in that back three, a role slightly different than being on the left or right of a centre-back pairing.
N’Koulou is most comfortable at the centre of a back three, and so the fit seems clear. It’s now up to Arsenal, and Torino, to see if they can get the deal done.