Transfer Talk: Arteta keen to add Ajax ace Martinez to Gunners' rearguard
Arsenal are making waves in the transfer market — and Lisandro Martinez is on their shopping list.
The North London outfit have already completed a £34million deal for Porto's Fabio Vieira and snapped up Sao Paulo starlet Marquinhos but have plenty more work to do this summer.
One of their primary targets is Ajax centre-back Martinez as Mikel Arteta bids to strengthen his defensive ranks ahead of next season.
We take a look at why the Argentina international is attracting the Gunners' attention.
On paper, Arsenal are well stocked in the centre-back department.
Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes and Rob Holding will be joined by returning loanee William Saliba next season, while right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu is also able to operate in central defence.
However, the Gunners are short of left-footed cover for Gabriel, with Pablo Mari unlikely to return to the first-team fold after his loan spell at Udinese.
Arteta's outfit also need an upgrade on the inconsistent Nuno Tavares at left-back — and Martinez has experience operating in both positions.
Good things come in small packages
Martinez is just 5ft 9in tall — but do not be deceived by his diminutive stature.
The 24-year-old is a robust and combative presence at the back and gained a reputation for throwing himself into challenges while at Ajax.
He said in December: "That will be because of my playing style. The way I go into duels, I never let a ball run."
A modern defender
Ajax conceded just 19 league goals in the 2021-22 season, with Martinez playing a key role in the Eredivisie winners' sensational defensive campaign.
The seven-cap international's reading of the game is one of his biggest strengths and he made an impressive 2.17 interceptions per 90 minutes last term.
Martinez is also remarkably efficient when distributing the ball, which would fit well with Arteta's desire to play out from the back.
A pass completion rate of 93% placed him in the 95th percentile when compared with other central defenders in Europe's top five leagues over the last year, while he is also in the 99th percentile for progressive passes (7.88).
Add in an impressive ability to carry the ball into midfield — making 6.13 progressive carries per 90 — and it is clear to see why Arsenal are interested.
Ten Hag twist
Arsenal appeared to be leading the race for Martinez but recent reports suggest that Manchester United are ready to gazump their Premier League rivals.
It will take an offer of around £35m to tempt Ajax into selling, with the Gunners believed to have had an initial bid of £25m rejected.
That could present a window of opportunity for the Red Devils, who will feel that the player's past relationship with manager Erik ten Hag could swing things in their favour.
Though Martinez would improve Arsenal's defensive options there is some doubt over whether signing him would be the best use of their resources this summer.
The Gunners need to bolster their squad after securing Europa League qualification last term and a new striker, central midfielder and wide forward are all on the club's wish list.
Rumours linking Bologna prospect Aaron Hickey with a move to North London also refuse to go away, which would provide a solution to Arteta's problems at left-back.
With so much business to do over the coming weeks, splurging on another central defender may not be the wisest approach — despite Martinez's obvious quality.