Arsenal Transfers: Why Riccardo Calafiori Move Makes Sense

arsenal jersey upclose

Arsenal had the best defensive record in the Premier League last season. Their backline was the foundation of their title charge as they let in only 29 goals in 38 matches. Therefore, a defender should not be high on the list of potential Arsenal transfers this summer, right?

The football community was surprised to hear a few days ago that Arsenal have expressed strong interest in Riccardo Calafiori. Italy have had a forgettable Euro 2024 campaign, but the Bologna defender was one of the few bright sparks in the otherwise underwhelming Azzurri side.

As of writing, there have been strong reports that the North London outfit have agreed terms with the defender. An official announcement could soon follow, assuming Arsenal will agree a fee with the Italian club.

What makes Calafiori so special that Mikel Arteta wanted to include him to an already stacked Arsenal defence? We attempted to find the answer.

Arsenal Transfers: Why the Gunners Want Calafiori?

He Seems Eager to Move

Calafiori blossomed under Thiago Motta at Bologna last season. He fulfilled a unique role that saw him surge forward from defence and make a significant contribution to the Rossoblu’s free-flowing possession game.

His 2023/24 campaign concluded with a brace against Juve, a fitting end given his meteoric rise, but it also hinted that this might be his final appearance for the club.

With the departure of Motta and the potential exits of Calafiori and Joshua Zirkzee, Bologna have been ruthlessly weakened on the cusp of their historic Champions League debut. They haven’t graced the competition since its reformatting in 1992.

He Seems Destined to Become the Next Great Italian Defender

Calafiori’s reputation continued to soar over the summer at Euro 2024. Despite Italy’s disappointing tournament, the young defender returned home with his credit undimmed. His remarkable performance in Germany put him in the shortlist of potential Arsenal transfers.

It was his surging run and link-up play in midfield that created Mattia Zaccagni’s equaliser against Croatia, propelling Italy into the knockout stages.

Injects More Dynamism Into Arsenal’s System

Jurrien Timber’s recovery hasn’t changed Arsenal’s plans for a new left-back. Ajax’s Jorrel Hato seemed like a perfect fit, but their recent contract extension has slammed the door shut on a potential deal.

With Timber’s return no longer the solution, Arsenal appear to have switched their focus to Bologna’s rising star, Calafiori. Mikel Arteta is likely drawn to the Italian’s versatility, as he offers tactical flexibility across multiple positions.

Under Motta’s tutelage, Calafiori thrived in possession throughout various areas of the pitch. He comfortably transitioned between centre-back in both three and four-man defences, occasionally filled in at left-back, and even ventured into midfield to contribute to Bologna’s attacking play.

Swiss Army Knife of a Defender

Calafiori defies the stereotype of a traditional centre-back. While his exceptional technical skills, evident in his passing and possession stats (as highlighted by FBRef), set him apart, he’s no slouch defensively either.

Known for his aggression and comfort in a high defensive line, Calafiori impressed last season in Serie A, leading Bologna in both interceptions (60) and aerial duels won (50).

While he can provide adequate cover for Gabriel at centre-back, Mikel Arteta sees him as a clear upgrade at left-back compared to Oleksandr Zinchenko and Jakub Kiwior. Both deputies filled the role admirably during Timber’s injury, but they possess limitations that Calafiori’s versatility could help address.