Arsenal could have defensive set up for the ages by signing £69m Saliba partner

Arsenal need to improve their team in January | Football Digest

Arsenal could have a defensive set up for the ages if they sign Sporting centre-back Ousmane Diomande. The 19-year-old has been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium after starring for the Portuguese side. And his age would be a huge advantage for the Gunners, who already have one of the best centre-backs in English football.

Arsenal signed Saliba from Saint-Etienne in 2019 when he was still 18 years old after they shelled out £27million in exchange for his services. The player then returned to his former employers on loan before embarking on temporary spells with Nice and Marseille.

But since being handed his first team debut for the Gunners, he has gone on to become one of his side’s most influential players. And he is a key reason that Arsenal were in the Premier League title race last season and are competing for honours once again this time around.

According to Portuguese newspaper O Jogo, Arsenal are keen to sign Diomande. And there are plenty of other clubs who want to prise the teenager away from Portugal, with Sporting reportedly setting a £69million release clause for the ace.

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Newcastle are also thought to be in the mix to land him after becoming a competitive force in the Premier League since their 2021 Saudi takeover. But if Arsenal can beat their rivals to the player’s signature, the club could have one of the best centre-back partnerships in European football for the next decade.

Diomande has the physical attributes to succeed in the Premier League. He is 6ft 2in, strong and fast, and is outstanding at defending in one-on-one situations. His positional awareness is excellent and he is also confident bringing the ball out from the back and picking out team-mates.

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Diomande would complement Saliba, who has played alongside the likes of Gabriel, Jakub Kiwior and Ben White at centre-back this season. And with the duo set to hit their prime at roughly the same time, the Arsenal defence could prove to be impregnable at times in the future.

Diomande, who has won one cap for Ivory Coast, previously enjoyed a loan spell with Portuguese second division side Mafra. And former Mafra manager Ricardo Sousa recently said: “He’s one of those players who doesn’t make mistakes. Manchester City’s main scout called me [during Diomande’s time at Mafra]. And, before that, someone from Arsenal had already spoken to the club. So the recent interest from a club like Newcastle doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.”

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