Per Mertesacker’s replacement- Arsenal close in on signing SOLID ROCK defender

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MEDHI BENATIA is the latest name on Unai Emery’s summer shortlist as he seeks to strengthen his new Arsenal side’s defence.

The Juventus centre-back has struggled to nail down a place in Turin and Arsenal have joined Marseille and Borussia Dortmund in chasing the Moroccan should he quit the Italian champions.

Benatia, 31, is the latest experienced defender to be linked with Arsenal since Emery arrived last month, following Juventus team-mate Stephan Lichtsteiner, 34, and Dortmund’s Greek centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 29.

Arsenal lost captain Per Mertesacker to retirement as he takes up a role in the club’s academy, and there are doubts over the long-term fitness of Laurent Koscielny, ruled out for six months with an achilles injury.

Other centre-back options Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers have uncertain futures after failing to impress since joining in 2016 and 2014 respectively.

Rob Holding and January signing Konstantinos Mavropanos are rated among the club’s best young prospects but their lack of experience, aged 22 and 20 respectively, remains a worry.

Benatia began his career with Marseille, failing to make a senior appearance before spells with Tours, Lorient and Clermont.

He then made his name with Udinese in Serie A before moving to Roma, where he spent just one season before Bayern Munich came calling.

The 53-cap Moroccan struggled with the Bavarian club, starting just 24 Bundesliga games in two years before a loan move to Juventus that was made permanent in 2017.

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