Monday, April 22, 2024

Season over for Zinchenko and Saliba

Morning all, a very quick Friday morning blog for you.

Mikel Arteta will meet the press today ahead of our game against Brighton on Sunday. I don’t think there’s anything particularly pressing in terms of team news or anything like that, so it’s just gonna be about making sure we take three points to keep the pressure up on Man City. We’ll have all the stories that matter over on Arseblog News, scheduled time for the presser is 1.30pm.

Meanwhile, in not very surprising news, William Saliba’s season is over. David Ornstein reported last night that the centre-half hasn’t recovered from that back injury to make another appearance, and while it’s not a shock, it’s a real disappointment for him that an excellent first campaign in red and white has petered out like this. Last week, Arteta referred to the ‘nasty impact’ (in the game against Fulham) that caused the injury, and the question now is how will it be managed.

Ideally you want to avoid surgery, but if there hasn’t been much improvement in the two months he’s been absent, there may not be much choice. The lack of detail around the injury makes it difficult to speculate on the possible treatment and recovery time. We heard about ‘structural damage’, which doesn’t sound clever at all, and it’s probably fair to say at this point this isn’t a normal issue we’re dealing with. Even something as horrible sounding as a broken bone or an ACL has a fairly defined treatment plan and you can count on a player being back within a certain period. With Saliba, we just don’t know. I say ‘we’ as fans, I’m sure inside the club they have a better idea, but even so there’s a vagueness to it all that makes you worry a little bit. Let’s hope they can sort it out sooner rather than later.

The other bit of news from David was the fact that Oleksandr Zincheko picked up a calf strain against Newcastle, and he too will be absent from the final games of this campaign. To me, it’s a blow, because he has been very influential this season. Yes, he has had a few weeks where defensively he hasn’t been at his best. Even if you accept that he’s not necessarily the most natural defender, he’s had moments where I think he could have done better, no doubt about it.

However, as frustrating as those things are, they shouldn’t undermine how important he has been to this team. His ability on the ball; that redefined ‘left back’ role; how key he is at times to ensuring we play much higher up the pitch; a couple of defensive lapses ought not to take away from that contribution, and I do think there’s a bit of recency bias when it comes to assessing him. You’re only as good as your last game etc etc.

James explained him well in an Arsecast Extra a little while back.

If there’s good news, it’s that Kieran Tierney came on and did very well against Newcastle. We know that he is desperate to play – so much so that a summer departure is very much on the cards – so let’s hope he can show his stuff in the final three games. What I would say is that although Mikel Arteta has, at times, asked KT to replicate what Zinchenko does, I think I would feel more comfortable with him playing a slightly more traditional left-back role.

Whether that requires us to make an adjustment in midfield or something else, I’m not quite sure, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Tierney isn’t quite as comfortable or accomplished in those central areas. Which isn’t a criticism. Zinchenko is essentially a gifted, left-footed number 10 being asked to play in a more defensive way, and Tierney is a touchline hugging number 3 being asked to do the job of a central midfielder. To my mind, one of those is a much easier adjustment to make, and that guy is now missing for the rest of the season.

Whether this is something Arteta touches on at his press conference today, we’ll have to wait and see, but if these are to be the final games of Tierney’s Arsenal career, let’s he goes out in storming fashion.

Right, I have to leave it there for now, but there is a brand new Arsecast for you. I chat to Nick Wright of Sky Sports about our return to the Champions League next season, both in terms of the challenge it presents and the excitement of it. We also talk about contract renewals for Bukayo Saka, Aaron Ramsdale and others, as well as Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka and more. There’s also a chance to win a Bukayo Saka t-shirt.

All the links you need to listen/subscribe are below – and join us later this afternoon for a Brighton preview podcast over on Patreon. For now, have a good one.


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