Last season Arsenal were dreadful defensively, conceding the second-most goals in the top eight behind only Manchester United. This summer is crucial in addressing the issues that have stopped Arsenal returning to the Champions League for the last three years. Arsenal have struggled to find a capable left-sided centre back that’s able to hold down the position with the club rotating between many players such as Laurent Koscielny, Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal and even Granit Xhaka last campaign which highlights Unai Emery’s need to fill the position with a new face. With less than a week until the Gunners jet off Stateside to begin their preseason duties, I think the north London club should look to Catalonia in their attempt to sure up the backline.
Mario Hermoso is a 24-year-old left-footed centre back that plays for the second biggest side in Barcelona, Espanyol. The former Real Madrid Castilla defender played 32 games of Espanyol’s La Liga campaign last season and has earned himself three caps for the Spanish national team. Having played over 50 games in the Spanish top-flight during his career Hermoso offers a decent amount of experience at a young age, something the young centre backs at Arsenal do not possess. Hermoso is a versatile player who can play left-back as well as centre back.
The Espanyol centre back possesses pace to burn, a significant amount of strength and can take a decent free-kick, something rarely seen in centre backs. Hermoso is also adept on the ball, with an excellent range of passing from the heart of the defence. The Spaniard averages 4.9 long balls per game, with many of them being sweeping switches of play reminiscent of Virgil Van Dijk (like this), and with an 83% success rate, he is as good on the ball as he is off of it. At six foot tall, Hermoso may not be one of the most towering defenders however he is still a force in the air, winning 2.3 aerial duels per game and scoring two headers out of his three goals last season.
Valued at £22.5m, Hermoso seems a brilliant buy at a snippet of what is paid for promising defenders these days. Although given his age he may still make a few mistakes, it would be well worth taking a gamble on this young Spaniard with Arsenal looking to enter contention for the Champions League spots next season. The purchase of Hermoso, as well as Unai Emery’s trust in Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos, could see this trio being the foundations that Arsenal build around for the next 10 years.