Friday, March 1, 2024

Thursday round-up: Tierney, Zinchenko, Jesus

Good morning.

It’s been a particularly quiet week all things considered. It’s not unusual for a bit of silence after we lose a game, but given the context of this season it’s a bit of a surprise all the same.

Last night there was Premier League action, with Leeds and Man Utd drawing 2-2. A good result for us, even if Leeds were 2-0 up at one point. Whisper it, but it seems United are on the right track under Erik ten Hag. They’ve developed a habit of winning and when you look at the table, even with the games in hand, you can’t say the title is just a two-horse race, even if two of the horses are a bit further ahead.

Oleksandr Zinchenko has been named Player of the Month for January, an award you couldn’t really argue with. The Ukraine international was sensational in the win over Man Utd in particular, and it seems pretty obvious now that he’s first choice in the ‘left-back’ position.

Inevitably, that will lead to speculation about Kieran Tierney and his future. If we know anything about him, it will be that this is hurting him. He wants to play every minute going, and right now he’s spending more time on the bench than he would like. Come the summer, if things don’t change, you can imagine that there will be a conversation between him and the manager – and as much as he’s a competitor, I don’t think he’ll be keen to spend another season in the same situation.

The thing is, across all competitions, Tierney has more minutes under his belt than Zinchenko (1142 to 1090). The difference in the Premier League is obvious however, where it’s 998 to 460 in favour of the former Man City man. What we have now is fantastic depth. Zinchenko has had some injury problems, and we’ve had a high class option when he’s not available. If he got injured again, you’d have few worries about KT, even if there are obvious stylistic differences between the two.

It’s also fair to point out that Tierney has had injury problems almost every season, and we’ve yet to see him struggle this time around – the shared burden must be seen as beneficial in that regard. And things can change in football pretty quickly. A player can pick up a knock, lose form, the team shape can change, and with still lots of football to play this season, this situation could look quite different a couple of months down the line.

My gut feeling though is that the Zinchenko preference, plus the fact there have been times this season when Mikel Arteta has preferred Takehiro Tomiyasu at left-back even when Tierney is fit, suggests this is something that will come a head at the end of the season. Then the question becomes, how do ensure we continue to have that impressive depth in a key position? It’s great to have two quality players for each position, but quality players always want to play and two into one etc etc.

That’s perhaps a discussion for another day.

Gabriel Jesus is back in London after some time in Brazil, and there’s excitement about that because Everton away was a game where we really missed his quality. Since his injury, we’ve played six Premier League games, winning four, drawing one and losing one. We’ve coped pretty well, but the sooner he’s back the better.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that return is necessarily imminent. Maybe we’ll get a nice surprise, we know how Arteta likes to keep as much injury news under wraps as possible, but from what little we know, it seems like there’s still a good chunk of his rehab to go. Hopefully it’s not too long before we see him back, because as we get closer and closer to May, the more impactful his return might be as we continue to scrap for the first title since 2004.

Finally, congrats to Arsenal Women who are through to the Conti Cup final, thanks to a 1-0 win over Man City last night. You’ll find reaction over on Arseblog News.

Right, that’s it for now. More from me tomorrow, including a brand new Arsecast.

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