Mikel Arteta backs Arsenal defence to be together for ‘five or six years’ | Arsenal

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal’s new-look defence could be their bedrock for the next half-decade or more, pointing to the quality and youthfulness of a quintet whose average age is 23.

Arsenal have looked relatively solid in going eight games unbeaten, six in the Premier League, with only four goals conceded. For top-flight games they have settled on a back four of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães and Kieran Tierney, with Aaron Ramsdale in goal. They have bedded in impressively and, while the longevity of George Graham’s famous old defence would take some matching, Arteta thinks they can go at least part of the way.

“The potential [to do that] is there because of the qualities they have individually, how they can complement each other with those qualities and, obviously with the age group that we have there,” he said when asked if they could play together for five or six years. “If we manage them well and they are willing to sustain that, they have a really bright future.”

Although the form of White and Ramsdale, two summer arrivals, has made a significant impression their manager was keen to praise Gabriel’s impact. The Brazilian centre-back, 24 in December, was signed from Lille in September 2020 and, after starting formidably, had a mixed first season. Now he is partnering White in a strong, balanced combination and Arteta is delighted with his influence.

“Gabriel has been crucial,” he said. “He came back from a knee injury so he missed all the pre-season, but he came in a different way. He showed a different maturity, a different level of application. His lifestyle has improved a lot, his language has improved a lot, and then he has all the qualities to be a superb central defender. I’m really pleased with what he is doing.”

Arsenal’s resolve will be tested on Saturday by a Leicester side that, with successive wins against Manchester United and Brentford, appear to be rediscovering some form. White is among a number of players whose fitness will be assessed, having departed early from Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win over Leeds with a sickness bug circulating the club. Arteta must also wait on Tierney’s ankle injury, although Nuno Tavares proved a more than capable deputy in the 3-1 victory against Aston Villa last Friday.

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