Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool but out of the three clubs most interested, who needs the central defender more?
Let’s start with Arsenal.
When all are fit, the Gunners have six central defenders available and that’s before introducing Nacho Monreal to the discussion.
Arsene Wenger’s tactical switch to a three-at-the-back formation has helped protect the Spaniard more, whilst allowing Rob Holding to impress alongside Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny when they are fit.
Per Mertesacker has a year remaining on his existing deal but his performance against Chelsea in last month’s FA Cup Final shows he’s still physically able to step into the breach when required.
Gabriel has shown flashes of individual brilliance that convinced Wenger to take a chance on the former Villarreal man, but also moments of madness which you can only hope he reduces with more experience under his belt.
Calum Chambers, Gibson’s centre-back partner for the majority of last season at Boro, is almost a forgotten man at the Emirates. The 22-year-old impressed following his £16m move from Southampton but Mustafi’s arrival meant his chances for regular first-team football were limited, hence why a loan move to another top-flight side made sense at the time.
Now though, his performances have unsurprisingly attracted attention from other teams in the league. Crystal Palace, Newcastle, West Ham and Everton are all interested in the defender’s situation and could be tempted to make a formal offer, which is slightly worrying.
Liverpool have five centre-backs themselves.
Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan all played regularly last season whilst Mamadou Sakho was loaned out to Crystal Palace and impressed. Joe Gomez, 20, has recovered from a long-term Achilles injury and remains a prospect that Jurgen Klopp is keen to give first-team assurances ahead of next term.
The club’s pursuit of Virgil van Dijk has been well-documented and although they’ve since apologised as allegations of tapping up the player continued to circulate earlier this month, they’re keen to strengthen ahead of UEFA Champions League football next season.
Last but not least, Southampton themselves.
They’ve got four first-team central defenders with Martin Cáceres set to be released this summer. Van Dijk continues to be linked with a move away and it’s unlikely their £50m valuation will scare away potential suitors as Manchester City and Chelsea are both reportedly interested in addition to Liverpool.
If he does decide to leave, then they’ll only have Maya Yoshida, Florin Gardos and Jack Stephens as senior centre-backs which isn’t adequate depth to mount a top-six challenge next season.
With all of that in mind, it’s clear that the Saints need Gibson more in comparison to Arsenal and Liverpool.
The Gunners have strength in depth and Liverpool do too, although Klopp’s men are keen to strengthen further, they’re likely to have more alternatives to Gibson this summer.