Money is tight at the Emirates Stadium this summer as Arsenal head coach Unai Emery attempts to overhaul a team that are in desperate need of reinforcements after a disappointing fifth-place finish in 2018/19.
The Spaniard’s side capitulated at the tail end of last season and will have to be content with another year of Thursday night football after missing out on a Champions League spot in the Premier League and losing the Europa League final to London rivals Chelsea.
Failure to secure a seat at Europe’s top table has dramatically impacted Arsenal’s transfer budget, and the club will have to strengthen a number of key positions with a reported war-chest of just £40million.
The Gunners can top up that figure with revenue raised from player sales, but high earning underperformers like Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Shkodran Mustafi are proving difficult to shift off the wage bill.
With significant issues to address in the centre of defence, out wide and in central midfield, it is hard to see how Arsenal will be able to make £40million stretch to cover all the requisite areas, if they blow a large chunk of it on the 22-year-old Scotsman.
Emery’s men may be better off searching out better value in the market, rather than splashing the cash on Celtic’s hottest prospect. But who could solve the Gunners’ left-back problem at a cheaper price?
The Scotland international excelled in a number of areas for the Bhoys in 2018/19, but in particular when it came to creating chances for his teammates. He recorded the third-most assists per 90 minutes of any defender in the Scottish top flight last season at 0.6 and his average of 3.4 completed crosses per match was particularly impressive.
It goes without saying that Arsenal will be looking to shore up a backline that conceded 51 goals in the Premier League last season; the Gunners let in six more goals than Manchester City and Liverpool combined and had a worse defensive record than Newcastle United, Leicester City, Everton and Wolves.
So it would appear that Emery will be looking for a player who can straddle the line between attacking creativity and defensive solidity. To find such an all-round defender on a shoestring budget is no mean feat, but there could be a few potential options for the former Sevilla boss to investigate…
Pedro Rebocho (Guingamp)
Ligue 1 is undoubtedly a higher standard of football than the Scottish top flight, which makes Pedro Rebocho’s performances for Guingamp last season all the more impressive when compared with Tierney’s output.
The 24-year-old Portuguese left-back registered the sixth-most assists of any Ligue 1 defender per 90 minutes in 2018/19 (0.22) and created 0.36 big chances per game – the fifth best in the division. His cross completion rate was outstanding too, with 1.75 completed crosses per match only being bettered by a solitary defender in France’s top tier.
Rebocho’s defensive attributes don’t quite match his attacking prowess, but he still managed 0.91 dispossessions per 90 minutes, which puts him just outside the 20 best performers in his respective division.
The former Portuguese Under-21 international was a mainstay in the Guingamp and could be available for as little as £6million following the club’s relegation.
Javi Galán (Huesca)
Despite his team’s struggles, Galán enjoyed an impressive second half to the campaign and posted impressive numbers in a side that only managed seven wins throughout the entirety of 2018/19.
The diminutive left-back was inside the division’s top ten defenders when it came to assists from open play (0.12 per 90), big chances created (0.31 per 90) and crosses completed (0.93 per 90). While his average completed dribbles of 1.81 per game is also highly impressive – the third-best defender in LaLiga – it is Galan’s defensive performances that really set him apart from the competition.
He topped the charts among defenders for the most tackles won per 90 minutes at 2.43, and was inside the top 20 when it came to winning back possession in both the defensive and final thirds.
When you consider the 24-year-old also won the third most defensive duels (8.06 per 90) of any defender, it becomes apparent that Galán may have the ability to fill the left-back slot at Arsenal for a fraction of the fee that Tierney would command.
A bid of just £2million might be enough to tempt Huesca to part with the former Córdoba and Badajoz defender. That has to be a deal worth considering at such a bargain price.
Antonio Luna (Levante)
Supporters of Aston Villa will perhaps be surprised that Antonio Luna could be a possible candidate for the left-back slot at Arsenal, after the Spanish defender failed to impress during a spell with the Villains from 2013 to 2015.
The Son Servera-born defender has worked with Emery before, and played 21 times for Sevilla in LaLiga before the Arsenal boss decided to sell him to Aston Villa during his first summer in charge of Los Rojiblancos.
Now 28 and in the prime of his career, Luna’s recent form suggests he could be deserving of a move to the Gunners after an impressive 2018/19 at Levante. He recorded 0.14 assists from open play per match (the eighth best of all La Liga defenders) last season and created the fourth most big chances per 90 minutes (0.35).
With cross completion inside the division’s top 20 (0.85 per 90), Luna has all the attacking attributes to fit into Arsenal’s defence and perform comfortably in either a back four or as a wing-back.
There are certainly still question marks about the former Copa del Rey winner’s defensive qualities, but it is worth noting that he was also in the top 20 LaLiga defenders when it came to winning back possession in all three thirds of the pitch last season.
With a market value of around £2million, Luna could warrant a second bite of the cherry when it comes to a chance at Premier League success.