Arsenal have begun talks to sign Swansea City central defender Ashley Williams. That's according to a report from Goal.com, stating the Gunners are discussing a deal with Williams' agent.
Williams has been linked with Arsenal more than once this year and certainly answers a need. Arsene Wenger's squad lacks a physically dominant centre-back.
Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen have each had their issues this season. Vermaelen has lost his place in the starting 11, after a batch of reckless performances.
Koscielny has been an able deputy, but struggled during the first half of the season. He was guilty of a series of high-profile blunders.
Mertesacker has perhaps been the most reliable. Yet the Germany international still has problems thanks to a lack of quickness and agility.
The problem is Arsenal's primary three centre-backs can often be overpowered. Koscielny was toyed with by Manchester City's Edin Dzeko at the Emirates Stadium in January.
He surrendered a penalty and earned a red card early on, condeming Arsenal to a 2-0 defeat. Koscielny also struggled to repel set-pieces against Chelsea at the Emirates, during a 2-1 defeat, back in September, 2012.
Mertesacker and Vermaelen couldn't cope with Manchester United's physicality and direct pace, when the Gunners lost 2-1 at Old Trafford in November, 2012.
In big games the pattern has been clear: Arsenal's existing central defenders have been manhandled.
Williams offers superior physical attributes to this trio. He is a rugged, combative stopper who relies on a stout frame, tenacity and deceptive quickness.
However, he isn't just a more aggressive alternative to Arsenal's technical, but fragile central defenders. Williams is also a savvy defender with excellent positional sense.
He rarely puts himself in areas that jeopardize the structure of Swansea's defence. That's not something Vermaelen specializes in.
His rash darts towards the ball often leave his centre-back partner isolated and create space for midfield runners to exploit. Williams may be a tough-tackling, bullish defender, but he is also a disciplined one.
He's also an above-average passer from defence. Playing in Swansea's neat, ball-control possession game has refined Williams technique.
He often starts attacks with efficient and accurate delivery from the back. That skill will certainly suit Arsenal's mode of stylish and intricate passing football.
Yet many Gunners fans might be under whelmed by the idea of signing Williams. After all, he has only two seasons of English Premier League experience.
There's also the issue of his age. He will be 29 when the next league campaign begins in August. His reported £12 million fee seems like a hefty price for a veteran player.
However, the same factors that seem to negate a move for Williams, actually make it more plausible. The fact is Wenger's teams have lacked an imposing, rough and tumble centre-back for too long.
Arsenal could use an EPL-tested stalwart at the heart of their defence. Williams boasts the aggression, experience and smarts.
There may be more marquee names Wenger could pursue at his position, such as Mats Hummels or Angleo Ogbonna. However, Williams could well be exactly the right player at exactly the right time for Arsenal.1142779