Transfers

Arsenal's dose of defensive reality might be exactly what Emery needs

 • by Sam McGuire
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Walter Kannemann is the latest centre-back to be linked with a move to Arsenal, and it’s the first real sign that reports which claim money is tight at the Emirates are actually correct. 

After reported interest in Dayot Upamecano, William Saliba and Samuel Umtiti, the 28-year-old defender may appear to be underwhelming. Hardly a household name, the Grêmio man isn’t likely to improve anytime soon with him already being in his peak.

He wouldn’t arrive with the potential of the aforementioned trio, he doesn’t have their reputation, either. But in all honesty, the Gunners are past that point. 

Reputation counts for very little. If they’re going to climb back into the top four, Unai Emery and the Arsenal recruitment team need to piece together a side capable of executing what the Spanish tactician wants. 

Looking at the links to centre-backs this summer, it’s fairly clear the Gunners want a defender that is aerially commanding but who also has the ability to step up and play aggressively. It also helps if they’re confident in possession. 

With that in mind, using the Football Whispers lab, we’re able to put together a profile on what Kannemann is all about and why Arsenal are reportedly keen on adding him to their ranks. 

First off, he’s used to being active in the air. The Argentine wins 2.75 of the 4.08 aerial duels per 90. He might not be as busy as others but he’s fairly dominant, losing just 1.33 duels.

Likewise, he’s just as controlling on the ground, too. He wins 67 per cent of his attempted tackles and makes close to two interceptions per 90.

Defensive stats are always tricky to read. The numbers hinge on how much work a team does defensively. For example, if a team is under the cosh for 90 minutes then players will be forced into making more tackles and their stats will look better.

In reality, all it shows if they’re busier.

On a similar note, there tends to be one aggressor and one sweeper in a defensive duo. Stats may suggest a centre-back is the former but he could be equally comfortable as the latter, too. It’s all to do with the demands placed on them by a manager.

Kannemann appears adept in possession. He averaged over 40 passes per 90 last term, completing 86 per cent of them and playing 43 per cent of them forward. It shows he’s precise even when playing adventurous passes. 

For context, Shkodran Mustafi averaged 60 passes in the Premier League during the 2018/19 campaign but completed a lower percentage and played fewer of them forward.

Again, this could be down to the style employed by Emery but it does highlight the Grêmio defender could do a job in the Arsenal backline without there being a monumental drop-off or a clash in style.

Kannemann has a presence about him, too. He’s physical and is rarely shrugged off the ball. He doesn’t dive in and rarely commits fouls – just the 1.25 per 90 last term – despite being really aggressive when looking to cover ground. 

He regains possession in the middle third on 2.33 occasions per 90 and 3.02 time in the defensive third. On paper, the 28-year-old has all of the characteristics required to excel in the Premier League. The only question mark and this is a big one, is how he’d adapt to Europe having never played here before.

It’s a quicker tempo and in a team like Arsenal he’d have a lot of ground to cover given they commit so many bodies forward. His age means it’ll be a sink or swim season for him and given he plays in a key position it’s not like he’d be afforded the time to really bed in.

The Gunners are in a tricky situation. They’re working to a budget and need to be shrewd in the market. But this comes with risks and if they get it wrong then it looks like they made a massive mistake when other, safer options are available.

Get it right and their recruitment team will be praised for their player spotting ability.

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