Arsenal have agreed their first signing both of the January transfer window and Sven Mislintat’s tenure as head of recruitment with the £1.9 million arrival of Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos.
he 20-year-old has been recruited from PAS Giannina but will now spend the rest of the season on loan, probably in the Bundesliga.
His arrival underlines how Arsenal’s transfer strategy will focus heavily on recruiting young players in their late teens and early twenties in the hope of identifying major future talents. That has been the bedrock of Arsene Wenger’s transfer strategy for much of the past two decades, although the past four years has seen a subtle move to paying bigger fees for ready-made players.
There has been frustration, though, at how close the club came to signing players like Kylian Mbappe and N’Golo Kante before they became wanted by the very richest clubs in Europe and Arsenal are determined to improve in that age group.
Mavropanos, who is 6ft 4ins, made his debut in the Greek Super League for PAS Giannina aged just 18 in November 2016 and is regarded as one of the best young players in Greece.
He has played primarily in a three-man central defence and improving their options in this position is a transfer priority this year for Arsenal. Per Mertesacker is retiring at the end of the season while Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are now both into their thirties. There was also some uncertainty last summer about Shkodran Mustafi’s future. Arsenal do also have two young English centre-backs in Calum Chambers and Rob Holding but there remain questions about their ability to consistently play at the very highest level. Mislintat is focussed especially on the European market following his successes at Borussia Dortmund.
“We have a structure in England, where we know everybody,” said Wenger. “We have taken somebody who has international experience and that is why we made that decision.”