Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta ready to wield axe on first-team trio

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is open to selling three of his current central defenders when the transfer window re-opens, according to reports.

Journalist David Ornstein, speaking on the Athletic’s Ornstein and Chapman podcast, revealed Arsenal will consider bids for 24-year-old Rob Holding.

The former Bolton man, who cost £2.5million when Arsene Wenger signed him in the summer of 2016, has made just one start under Arteta and the defender is understood to be surplus to requirements.

Holding had taken a bigger role under Unai Emery, but a cruciate knee ligament injury ended his 2018/19 season prematurely and his only Premier League start this season was in the 2-0 reverse at Leicester in November.

Fellow centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos, whose current contract expires next year, “may also be deemed surplus to requirements” and allowed to leave north London this summer.

In March the Greek star insisted he will not “sit” on his contract at Arsenal and would look to move on if he becomes disillusioned at being out of the team.

Having previously said he would leave when his contract expired in 2021, Sokratis suggested that could change.

“I don’t know,” he replied when asked if he would leave next year. “I have one more year here but me, I never sit on my contract.”

It is also claimed Arteta could entertain offers for Shkodran Mustafi, who was a £35million signing four years ago.

Arteta knows he would not get anywhere near that price for the 28-year-old German, who hinted he would like to stay next season.

Mustafi said: “He’s a little like a professor. He knows exactly where he wants the players to be when on the ball and how to react when losing the ball. It’s very special.




“When I pass I am usually only focused on where to be if we lose the ball but he wants me to contribute offensively too. So we constantly need to make an option for the player on the ball.”

Arteta’s defence, though, will be buoyed by William Saliba, who will return from his loan spell at Saint Etienne, while Pablo Mari’s loan from Flamengo will likely be made permanent.

David Luiz will likely be kept on, while Arteta is looking for a new left-back which will allow him to play  Bukayo Saka further forward.

Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico is believed to be a £20million target.

The 27-year-old confirmed when signing a new contract with Ajax last year that he would be ready for a new challenge at the end of the current season, and recently, The Sun claimed that he was open to a move to the Premier League in the wake of interest from Arsenal.