The 2021/22 season is already being viewed as a crucial year for Arsenal for both the club as well as the players.
With the current campaign likely to see the Gunners finish outside a European place in the Premier League table for the second year in a row and the prospects of playing continental football next season looking slim barring a miracle in the Europa League, plenty could be riding on the future of Arsenal when August rolls around.
Fans will be expecting a return to European football of some sort, as well, as more squad renovations from Mikel Arteta and Edu that will aid Arsenal in their attempt to returning to the pinnacle of the English game.
Yet one position that is, for once, not in desperate need of additional signings is the centre-back role.
Depth and quality in defence
Despite selling the likes of Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi in the January transfer window, Arsenal’s options in the central of defence remain deep, with Rob Holding having his best season to date with the Gunners as well as the likes of experienced heads in Pablo Mari and David Luiz also featuring prominently for the north London side.
Summer signing Gabriel has too been impressive in his debut year in England, with Calum Chambers just last week returning to the Premier League picture with an impressive display at the back in Arsenal’s 1-1 draw against Burnley.
With David Luiz the only player from the current pool likely to leave in the summer as his contract comes to an end, Arteta will have to make an important decision in the off-season as to who his main centre-back pairing should be heading into the 2021/22 campaign, and he will have two extra options to consider, as well.
Whilst William Saliba has captured most of the fans attention this season for his lack of first-team minutes in the first half of the season to now being a regular starter for Nice, Konstantinos Mavropanos is starting to show the form that made the Greek defender such an intriguing prospect when he first arrived in 2017.
Flourishing in Germany
The 23-year-old defender has quietly gone about his business in the Bundesliga this season with Stuttgart, who this year have been one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the German top-flight, recording a 5-1 wins against both Borussia Dortmund and Schalke and currently sitting seven points off the Europa League spots.
And Mavropanos’ form has been key to this impressive season for Pellegrino Matarazzo’s side, with the Arsenal man this month being nominated for the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month for his recent performances for Stuttgart, and it’s not just fans and pundits the Greek defender is impressing.
In a recent interview with The Athletic, Stuttgart sporting director and former head of recruitment at Arsenal Sven Mislintat lavished Mavropanos with praise, saying: “He (Mavropanos) has all the hardware and all the software to be a great defender… If he can stabilise physically, he’s undoubtedly a Bundesliga-level defender… He’s one of the fastest centre-backs in the league, alongside Dayot Upamecano.”
A selection headache for Arteta
Mavropanos year in the Bundesliga has done the towering defender a world of good with the Greek centre-back constantly being out of the Arsenal squad due to injury in his three years with the club, yet his form for Stuttgart does cause some problems for Arteta.
Assuming David Luiz leaves Arsenal in the summer, the Gunners will still have a plethora of centre-backs in their squad with the caveat being that all of them have a chance of making it into the starting XI of the opening day of the Premier League season, and Mavropanos could find himself amongst that group.
With Saliba also returning to north London in the summer, Arteta will have some big decisions to make heading into the 2021/22 campaign, and Mavropanos form has given the Arsenal manager plenty to think about as the Greek defender has looked to have finally found his groove in football.