Arsenal have appeared to shift their attention onto signing a star centre-back this summer as the end of the summer transfer window draws close.
Granit Xhaka’s £30 million arrival from Borussia Monchengladbach has so far been the sole high-profile signing, with only Rob Holding and Takuma Asano joining the Swiss midfielder at the Emirates.
Moves for various strikers, most notably Alexandre Lacazette, have failed to materialise, and it seems that Arsene Wenger has identified his team’s problems in defence and targeted La Liga as the base for his search for a new commanding leader from the back.
Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi and Atletico Madrid’s Jose Maria Gimenez have been the two names circulated in the media over the past few days, with neither option coming for a price that would please the notoriously careful Wenger.
Despite agreeing personal terms with Mustafi, talks between Arsenal and Valencia have progressed glacially, so attention has been focused on Atleti’s Uruguayan sensation.
In February of last season, Gimenez was clearly one of La Liga’s strongest players. This fact was such an extent that Squakwa described him as ‘the mortar to [Diego] Godin’s brick in Diego Simeone’s impregnable wall’.
Gimenez made nine further appearances, and his displays in red and white clearly had tongues wagging in Spain, with Real Madrid making an approach for their bitter rivals key asset.
Arsenal have reportedly joined the race for Gimenez in recent days, but could be warded off by his €65m release clause.
Mustafi would definitely provide a cheaper option at approximately £26m, but is the German international statistically a better option to Gimenez?
Using Squakwa’s comparison matrix, that certainly suggests that is the case. Mustafi (30) played marginally more La Liga games to his Atleti counterpart, with Gimenez appearing in just three games fewer.
The Valencia star is surrounded, by and large, by weaker players, so it is unsurprising that he does not seem to trust his fellow defenders with the ball in terms of forward passes completed in 2015/16.
In comparison to Gimenez’s 694, Mustafi’s total of 1064 proves that if Wenger if searching for an defender with attack-orientated instincts means that the cheaper option is the better one, much to Arsene’s liking.
Both players have a similar pass success rate, but it is again Mustafi who triumphs in successful tackles (51-40).
Again, little separates the pair when examining aerial duels won, but Mustafi’s weaknesses are evidently highlighted through the number of fouls the German has committed as well as tackles lost.
In the former, Gimenez’s percentage of 64.29 far outweighs Mustafi’s effort of 53.85 percent, whilst the former Everton trainee has been unsuccessful in his attempts to attain the ball 73 times.
Gimenez’s reputation for being a physically threatening and resilient defender is reflected in Squakwa’s statistics, with the Uruguayan failing to successfully take the ball from his opponent just 49 times throughout last season.
Nevertheless, Mustafi remains strong in other areas of his game, making almost twice as many interceptions as Gimenez, whilst the World Cup winner triumphs narrowly in number of blocks made.
Our verdict: Mustafi would make more sense financially for Arsenal as he is better value for money, but Gimenez at 21 is already an outstanding defender and his potential is frightening to even consider. Either signing would be a wise one for the Gunners, but they need to make a move quickly.
Callum Connolly, Pundit Arena.