Making predictions about soccer is a fool’s game in the best of times. Only ask those who maintained Arsenal had’won the transfer window’ since the Premier League got underway.
It was viewed as the cherry on top; an expert Brazil international, serial winner and Premier League winner at a knockdown price.
So much so, Arsenal are ready to reduce their losses by registering another central defender this month, though they have £27million William Saliba parked on loan at Saint-Étienne before the summer.
Merih Demiral is one reported Arsenal goal. However, the Juventus defender will not come cheap. But, Jérôme Boateng could fix the Gunners’ central defensive crisis, and in a fraction of the purchase price.
The Bayern Munich defender has endured a trying few years. Everybody remembers him being humiliated by Lionel Messi at the 2015 Champions League battle between Bayern and Barcelona. In actuality, it’s arguable Boateng’s standing has never quite recovered.
You may also remember the way that he, together with Bayern team-mates Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels, was unceremoniously dropped from German national team duty by coach Joachim Löw in March last year, five years after winning the World Cup together.
Hummels abandoned Die Roten in the summer to go back to Borussia Dortmund while there were widespread reports Müller would also leave. Boateng has just stuck around due to the defensive crisis at the Allianz Arena.
However, based on Sky in Germany, Bayern are delighted to allow Boateng to depart for as little at £12.8million this January. The 31-year-old, who formerly played in England with Manchester City, is eager to leave Bavaria having made only eight league starts this term.
The Gunners had been heavily linked with a different centre-back plying his trade at the Bundesliga: RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano. In 21, the Frenchman would be a much better long-term investment. But Arsenal simply cannot meet RB’s £70million asking price for its controlling defender.
Therefore a cheap stop-gap alternative it is. And if that is the marketplace new Gunners manager Mikel Arteta has been forced to shop in, he could do much worse than Boateng. In addition to boasting a multitude of top-level expertise with Bayern and Germany — the type this rudderless, spineless Arsenal side is crying out for — he’s a cool, calm and composed client.
A tough tackler who reads the game well, Boateng is good on the ball and has an impressive passing array, which makes him the perfect centre-back to play out in the back and commence attacks for the North Londoners.
Despite making only 20 Bundesliga appearances last season, Boateng rated third among centre-backs in Germany’s top-flight for passes attempted (84.74 per 90) and finished (75.38 per 90).
This term, when he’s featured sparingly, Boateng remains one of the Bundesliga’s best ball-playing defenders, finishing 75.4 moves per 90 (5th) and trying 85.39 (4th).
Signing Boateng wouldn’t be without its dangers, though. The understanding is that injuries have hampered him in the past few years and, while he’s suffered, the former Hamburg stopper was never ruled out for over four times last term, per Transfermarkt data.
There have been questions, also, about Boateng’s lifestyle and off-field interests. Something of a philanthropist, with interests in music, style and charity also, Boateng is frequently seen rubbing shoulders with celebrities from different spheres and is often overseas.
But that has not always been the case. In 2016, after an error-stricken screen for Bayern against FC Rostov in the Champions League, Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was critical of the protector, stating: “It would be in the interests of him and the club when he came back down to earth a bit.”
Boateng reacted by telling BILD: “The criticism of my performance is warranted. I didn’t play well. This is partially due to my injury from the Euros and that I am not yet fully 100 percent.
“The reason for this isn’t PR or anything from my life.
If Arsenal can get Boateng fully fit and straight back to top form, he could be precisely the participant they hoped they were getting when they signed Luiz.