Jason Denayer isn’t that well known in England, despite being on Manchester City’s books since 2013. He has yet to play a competitive fixture for the club, but two loan spells have seen his star rise across Europe. The Belgian has accumulated seven caps for the national side, showing his quality and there is undoubted potential, which is why Arsene Wenger will be aware of the defender. City are pursuing John Stones heavily and that could result in Denayer looking elsewhere for a permanent home, as he is already behind Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi in the pecking order.
He has long been compared to Vincent Kompany, with many expecting him to replace the Manchester City captain at both club and international level. It is easy to see why comparisons are made between the two, from their origins to their playing styles, but Denayer needs to have his own path in the game. Therefore a move away may be beneficial as it takes him away from the inevitable comparisons to his compatriot.
His first loan spell to Celtic allowed him to gain first-team experience and he has spoken about the huge improvements he made, due to his time at Celtic Park. In his debut for the Scottish club, he scored a goal and received the man-of-the-match award, which showed his qualities to the fans immediately. The defender was a goal threat in Scotland, netting five times and he formed a great partnership with Virgil van Dijk. His defensive partner at Celtic has since come to England and done very well. Denayer will believe he can have a similar impact, if he is given a chance.
Denayer is a strong, physical defender, who would be more than capable of adjusting to the style of the Premier League. He is very physical for his age, and is excellent in the air, both in defence and attack. The Belgian international is also an athlete and is mobile on the pitch as a result. Denayer is composed on the pitch and has confidence in his abilities, which has allowed him to look at home every time he makes a step up. He is rarely booked and that will prove to be an asset if he keeps that up throughout his career.
In terms of his weaknesses, Denayer can be inconsistent and makes defensive errors, which is common considering his age. In the Euro 2016 quarter-final against Wales, he was bullied by Hal Robson-Kanu, who isn’t a particularly good forward. He needs to start playing at a higher level more often to improve this area of his game. He has had spells in Scotland and Turkey, neither of which are very good in terms of quality. The next logical step for Denayer is to get regular football in one of the top five European leagues and he will aim to get that this summer.
Arsenal need to look for defensive reinforcements and they have also been linked with Mattias Ginter, who has been good for Borussia Dortmund over the last 12 months. They have Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel. Only Koscielny is a top defender, with Mertesacker becoming less reliable as he gets older and Gabriel making several errors since joining Arsenal. Denayer has the ability to cover the centre-back positions well, but he also has the potential to grow into a regular for Arsenal. He could learn a lot from Koscielny and Mertesacker, before taking the latter’s place in the coming years.
Another advantage that Denayer brings is versatility as he did well for Galatasaray as a right-back. He looked like a natural in the position, with his positioning excellent and his attacking influence improving as he became more experienced in the role. His long term future is at centre-back and that is where Arsenal would look to utilise him, but it is useful to have cover for the right-back position also.
Arsenal need to add more first team players to their squad if they are to challenge for the title next season. A top tier striker is a must, but their defence needs to be strengthened as the depth isn’t there. If they bring in one or two more defenders, they may be able to loan out Calum Chambers, who needs first team football to progress. Denayer has already proven himself in two leagues and has done well in his handful of caps for Belgium. It could also be seen as an opportunity to take one of their rivals best young players and that would certainly be well received by the fans. He is far from the finished article, but he would be a good addition and could be the long term replacement for Mertesacker.