According to Football.London, Charlton Athletic manager Lee Bowyer has questioned Arsenal’s decision to sell highly-rated defender Krystian Bielik to Derby County in the summer, with the former England international aiming a sly dig at Unai Emery’s transfer business.
The 21-year-old Polish international, who spent the entirety of the previous campaign on loan at Charlton Athletic in League One under the stewardship of Bowyer, played a key role in the Addicks’ promotion-winning season, scoring 4 goals in 34 appearances across all competitions.
As per the BBC report, Bowyer had expected Arsenal to recall Bielik back in January when there was a severe injury crisis at the club. But their decision to permanently offload the Pole to Derby County this summer left the Charlton manager completely baffled.
“They should focus on their centre-halves, because that is where they are weak,” Bowyer told the BBC.
Bielik, who started his development at Lech Poznan and turned professional with Legia Warsaw in his homeland as a teenager before making his move to Arsenal in 2015, made only two first-team appearances for the Gunners in the League Cup.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s inconsistent run of form in the ongoing season has put Unai Emery under a lot of pressure, with a lack of solidity at the back continuing to be a notorious talking point from the second half of the previous campaign.
Despite signing David Luiz in the summer, there has been little improvement on the defensive front, with the Gunners already shipping 15 goals in 11 Premier League games so far (Skysports).
To put things into perspective, it would be hard to say that Bowyer is wrong to criticise Arsenal’s decision to cash in on Krystian Bielik, given that he could have evolved into a regular first-team player at the Emirates this season.
The 21-year-old’s potential was never in doubt and it was always a matter of exposure and experience for the Pole to evolve into a top-quality professional.
Given Arsenal’s current defensive crisis and Bielik’s incredible run of form at Derby County this season, the Gunners have, indeed, been left red-faced by their transfer blunder in the summer.
With Luiz proving himself to be a defensive liability, Holding yet to recover his health fully following a long spell on the sidelines, and Mavropanos a regular fixture on the treatment table, Arsenal would definitely have relished having someone like Bielik, who is adept at playing both in central defence and defensive midfield.
As per Whoscored, Krystian Bielik averages 3.1 tackles, 1.9 interceptions, 3.6 aerial duels won and 2.7 clearances per game in the Championship, while also boasting of a pass success rate of 84%, including 3.5 long balls and 1.4 dribbles per game.
The Pole has won 40 of his attempted 56 tackles in the Championship so far (around a 71% accuracy), numbers which are really impressive given that he has been rotated between defensive and midfield roles. Furthermore, in terms of aerial duels, the 21-year-old has come out on top on 47 occasions out of a possible 73 (almost 64%).
Those stats definitely speak volumes of his technical abilities on the ball, range of passing and aerial dominance as a defender. Given that Bielik still has plenty of time to add more to his repertoire of skills, holding on to him for the long term would have made a lot of sense for Arsenal.
With academy starlets like Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson, and Emile Smith-Rowe making a name for themselves in the senior ranks this term, Bielik could also have reaped the fruits of Emery’s willingness to blood youngsters in the first-team.
In recent times, Arsenal have been left red-faced by the rise of former youth prospects like Serge Gnabry, Donyell Malen, and Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who have shown signs of flourishing at other clubs following their departure from North London.
To that end, they will be hoping that the decision to sell the Pole this summer doesn’t come back to haunt them too badly.