Arsenal and Chelsea are both expected to strengthen at centre-back before the transfer window closes, with Shkodran Mustafi and Kalidou Koulibaly rumoured to the clubs’ respective top targets.
Mustafi is said to be valued at around £30m by Valencia, a fee which the Gunners are believed to be in the process of haggling over.
Across the capital, Chelsea might have to shell out as much as £60m to sign Kalidou Koulibaly, depending on where you get your sports news from.
Obviously, who Arsene Wenger rates as a good defender may differ from Antonio Conte’s opinion, but the wildly contrasting prices of the players suggests a huge discrepancy in their ability.
So are Arsenal buying budget, or are they have picked the better value stopper? Stats from last season suggest the latter.
The pair played a relatively similar number of games in 2015/16, with Koulibaly (33) making three more league appearances than Mustafi (30) and just one year in the Senegalese’s favour separates the two in terms of age.
But speaking strictly defensive statistics from last term, the German savoured the superior campaign.
He averaged 2.7 tackles per La Liga appearance, in addition to 4.4 interceptions and 5.3 clearances. He also won three aerial duels too in a typical Spanish top tier outing.
Koulibaly can’t match his rival in any of these respects. He mustered means of 2.5 tackles, 2.5 interceptions, 3.6 clearances and won 2.5 headers.
The numbers suggest Mustafi is a better reader of the game, a superior aerial presence and a greater detector of danger. His stronger tackles won average is also indicative of greater aggression, in the sense that he’s willing to engage opposing attackers and relieve them of possession, setting up counter attacks for his colleagues.
His costlier counterpart is far from incapable in these fields if the stats he posted are anything to go by, but they also scream that he isn’t worth twice as much as the Valencia star.
It’s also important to note that Koulibaly recorded his totals as part of a far stronger defensive unit. Napoli finished second in Serie A conceding 32 goals, whereas Valencia finished in the bottom half of La Liga having shipped 48.
The contrast in the duo’s divisional standings is huge, but the Spaniard’s backline was breached on just 16 more occasions. Were it not for Mustafi and the exceptional season he savoured, Valencia would’ve been a far worse predicament.
If Wenger wants to strengthen at centre-back, he’d be sensible to pay the £30m Valencia want before someone else beats them to his signature.