Ranking the 20 centre-backs Arsenal have signed since Sol Campbell left

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Arsenal's Ben White and William Saliba celebrate at the final whistle after the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium, London, October 2022.

Arsenal have had their fair share of defensive problems since Sol Campbell left the club to join Portsmouth in the summer of 2006.

While some centre-backs have earned the adoration of the Gunners faithful, there are plenty of others who have put in terrible performances and are remembered far from fondly.

We’ve ranked all 20 of the centre-backs signed by the club since 2006 by how they have fared at the Emirates.

20. Sebastien Squillaci

Oh, Sebastien. The Frenchman struggled during his time in north London, managing just 39 games in three years before being allowed to join Bastia for free.

This clip of Squillaci being comically calamitous kind of says it all.

19. Semi Ajayi

Currently at West Brom, Ajayi didn’t actually play for Arsenal, but there’s no way anybody can be placed below Squillaci.

18. Konstantinos Mavropanos

The Greek defender has actually looked decent-ish when he’s got onto the pitch at the Emirates, but he wasn’t really been given much of a chance.

Mavropanos spent three successive loans back to Germany and has since been sold to Bundesliga side Stuttgart for about the same price he was originally bought for.

17. Mikael Silvestre

Silvestre had some absolutely shocking games in an Arsenal shirt, but he did score in a 4-4 draw in the north London derby, so props for that.

16. Auston Trusty

We’re biased because he has the perfect name for a centre-back, straight out of a comic book.

It remains to be seen whether he’ll ever impress enough out on loan at Birmingham City to ever come back and feature for his parent club, but by all accounts he’s doing pretty well at St. Andrew’s. Watch this space.

15. Pablo Mari

Mari joined on loan from Flamengo in January of 2020 and impressed enough in three appearances to earn himself a permanent contract with the Gunners.

The 28-year-old was disrupted by injury problems and scored his first goal for the club against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League. He since recovered to become a fringe player, but it’s difficult to imagine him ever pushing beyond that, and is now out on loan at Monza.

He recently suffered a horrendous stabbing attack, to which his Gunners team-mates responded by giving a heartwarming show of support.

14. Sol Campbell

Having initially left Arsenal in 2006, Campbell re-joined in January 2010, making 10 league starts to help Arsenal to a third-placed finish.

His second spell under Arsene Wenger was a short one, as the defender joined Newcastle United in the summer of the same year.

READ: An ode to Sol Campbell’s neverending slide tackle & a great England moment

13. Calum Chambers

There was a fair amount of excitement around Chambers when he arrived for a little under £20m in 2014, but he hasn’t quite lived up to the billing so far.

He struggled with injuries and eventually left for Aston Villa in January 2022 after a couple of loans away. Still, he’s played over 100 times for the Gunners.

12. Gabriel Paulista

Arsenal fans had been longing to see some aggression and passion in their team for years when Gabriel Paulista joined in 2015, but the defender may have taken it a bit far.

He averaged a yellow card every four games and was even labelled a “hot head” by Arsene Wenger before being sold at a small loss to Valencia in 2017.

11. Shkodran Mustafi

When Arsenal signed a World Cup-winning defender in 2016, they hoped that they had finally found the man to command their defence for a decade.

The Germany international has helped the club win FA Cups and the Community Shield, which is easy to forget considering what a calamity he became in his latter years. You won’t be at all shocked to hear he’s suffered back-to-back relegations since departing the Emirates.


10. Sokratis

Sokratis always put in an honest performance when he got on the pitch, and like Paulista, was an absolute warrior.

There were undeniably key limitations to the 32-year-old’s game though, and that saw him fall down the pecking order under Mikel Arteta before his sale to Olympiakos.

9. William Gallas

We still can’t forgive Gallas for inheriting Dennis Bergkamp’s No.10 shirt.

The former France international made 142 appearances for the Gunners and was even made captain but the lasting memory from his spell at the club was when he sat down on the pitch and threw a strop after a 2-2 draw with Birmingham in 2008.

READ: Ranking the worst misdemeanours by Arsenal captains: Xhaka, Gallas, RVP…

8. David Luiz

While Luiz’s time at the Emirates was punctuated by a catalogue of errors, he showed he could still be a bloody good footballer on his day.

The Brazil international endured a horrific cameo against Manchester City but then starred in their FA Cup semi-final and final victories a few weeks later. What an enigma.

READ: A forensic analysis of David Luiz’s mad 30 minutes for Arsenal against Man City

7. Rob Holding

Holding joined Arsenal from Bolton Wanderers in a £2million deal in 2016 but struggled to establish himself as a first-team regular under Arsene Wenger or Unai Emery.

The 26-year-old had a revival at Arsenal under Mikel Arteta, for a while becoming one of the first names on the teamsheet. He’s also pretty good with the ball at his feet for a centre-back, and is now a more-than-decent squad option.

6. Thomas Vermaelen

After joining Arsenal from Ajax in 2009, Vermaelen enjoyed an impressive debut season at the Emirates and earned a place in the PFA Team of the Year.

He was appointed club captain in 2012 but was sidelined with injury problems during a significant part of his time at the Emirates.

5. William Saliba

It was always a bit weird that Arteta seemed so reluctant to give Saliba a chance, often while Saliba underlined his top level credentials out on loan while the Gunners struggled defensively.

All’s well that end’s well, though. After doubts whether the Frenchman would ever come back to stake his place, he’s now nailed down a spot in Arteta’s favoured XI and looks like one of the very best centre-backs in the Premier League.

He looks to have the quality to make himself No.1 on this list. We’re tempted to place him higher but it’s still early days in his Arsenal career.

Sort that contract, pronto.

4. Ben White

Some questioned the £50million fee Arsenal paid Brighton for White. Few are doing so now: White is arguably the most in-form English defender in 2022-23 so far.

He wasn’t perfect in his debut season at the Emirates, but was largely very solid, and is now enjoying his best run of form yet – albeit as a right-back rather than a centre-back.

3. Gabriel Magalhaes

Gabriel was one of the few positives during their disastrous start to the 2020-21 season, winning three consecutive Arsenal Player of the Month awards.

There’s been the odd shaky moment since, but the Brazilian’s mostly looked very comfortable in north London and his aerial dominance makes him look a perfect partner for White or Saliba.

2. Per Mertesacker

Mertesacker’s incredible performance in the 2017 FA Cup final against Chelsea ensures his place in the top two here.

READ: A forensic analysis of Per Mertesacker’s display in the 2017 FA Cup final

1. Laurent Koscielny

His time in north London may have come to a controversial end in 2019 but Koscielny was the clear winner here.

The centre-back signed for Arsenal in 2010 and became a mainstay of their defence over the next nine years, making 353 appearances in all competitions and winning three FA Cups in the process.

He was also a bargain at £8.5million.

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