In a shock twist, The Sun have provided a real boost to Arsenal fans as they report that the Gunners have leapfrogged Manchester City in the race to sign West Brom central defender Jonny Evans.
What may take the shine off of the speculation is that the report indicates that Evans may be a replacement for unwanted German defender Shkodran Mustafi. That will raise the question of if Evans is an improvement on the former Valencia man.
Evans has the edge in some regards, for example, his Premier League experience. Having been there and won that with Manchester United, he knows what it’s like to compete at the very highest level. Since leaving, he’s proven himself with regular football at West Brom and shown himself to be a solid top flight centre back.
With Per Mertesacker set to retire at the end of the current season, Arsene Wenger may also be considering Evans as a long term replacement as the leader, and potentially even captain, of the Gunners’ defence. His communication skills and organisation could be key in the absence of the big friendly German.
He could also replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s homegrown status in the squad, something of increasing value as more and more foreign imports raise the value of domestic talent.
Evans is also an excellent reader of the game and is well known for making crucial interceptions. His anticipation is one of his biggest strengths and often helps to snuff out attacks before they really begin to threaten.
However, Mustafi has his strengths too. For one, Mustafi is four years younger than Evans and if it is a long term solution that Wenger is looking for, he could be better served by trying to develop Mustafi into the kind of player he is looking for.
Mustafi is also a better player on the ball, in terms of the style of play that the Gunners deploy. His short passing game is more suited to the Emirates than Evans’ style, often looking to play long balls over the top or down the flanks.
It’s a tough call for Wenger, and many will be hoping that there is no such decision to make of one or the other. If there is though, whilst Evans may be a short term fix, Mustafi could be the better bet long-term.