Arsenal linked with Middlesbrough’s Djed Spence
Recent reports have credited Arsenal with an interest in Middlesbrough defender, Djed Spence.
At first glance, it is easy to see why the Gunners may have some interest in the man currently on loan at Nottingham Forest.
Spence recently spent 90 minutes bombing down Arsenal’s left-flank, causing them all sorts of issues as Mikel Arteta’s side crashed out of the FA Cup at their first hurdle.
For Forest meanwhile, Spence has received widespread praise from their fans for his attacking prowess and ability to cause Championship defenders a whole host of issues.
On the Arsenal front, meanwhile, it is fair to say that their backup options for Takehiro Tomiyasu are not the greatest at present.
Cedric Soares, 30, is an inconsistent option that no longer really fits the mould of this promising, young Arsenal side.
Elsewhere, Calum Chambers is a dubious option for that role at best, and is out of contract this summer.
So, with the Gunners probably in need of some fresh legs at right-back and Spence seemingly fitting the criteria for new Arsenal recruits when it comes to age, why wouldn’t they want to sign him?
Why Arsenal should not sign Djed Spence
Well, here’s why.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal operate with a back-four system for the most part. However, their full-backs have very different jobs.
On the left, one of Nuno Tavares or Kieran Tierney is tasked with bombing forward to provide width and creative support when Arsenal have the ball.
On the opposite flank, meanwhile, the right-back is generally asked to stick back and form a back-three with Arsenal’s two centre-backs when in possession.
Takehiro Tomiyasu, a man whose signing was mocked live on Sky over the summer, fits this bill perfectly.
The Japan international may lack quality going forward, but his defensive game is superb, something that is probably helped by the fact he can also play as a centre-back anyway.
Spence, though, does not come close to fitting what Arsenal want in a right-back.
The 21-year-old, though very talented going forward, is an often inconsistent player who forgoes his defensive duties in favour of attacking. This is what led to the Englishman being loaned out by then Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock over the summer of 2021.
Warnock is a more traditional coach who favours defensive work rate and discipline in his defenders over attacking ability.
And whilst Arsenal do not want this all the time, it is clear Arteta favours it in his right-backs.
101 recently covered a report that stated Arsenal were close to signing Emerson Royal over the summer, but Mikel Arteta pulled the plug.
The Athletic, meanwhile, reported back in September that Arsenal had targeted a very specific profile at right-back, looking for a full-back who can tuck into central areas in possession, enabling Arsenal to build up in a back-three if so desired (the asymmetrical system Arteta generally uses).
So, though talks are thought to have progressed with Emerson, it is easy to see why Arsenal coaching staff were concerned he would not fit the system.
And, though not a like-for-like player, Spence is a much more similar option to Emerson than he is to Tomiyasu, making his signing a potentially odd one at best – unless Arteta is looking to completely revamp his system, which seems unlikely.
This article was edited by Ben Browning.
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