Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Timber’s return to training + thoughts on his place in the team

Let’s start this morning with good news, and that’s the fact that Jurrien Timber is back training with the rest of the squad.

The lads had a session at the Emirates on Wednesday, and he was there. Arsenal.com reported that the Dutch international, ” … received a warm welcome from his teammates at Wednesday’s special training session at Emirates Stadium.”

We should point out returning to training and being ready to play competitive football in the Premier League and Champions League are quite distinct. As I wrote last month, there’s usually a fairly consistent time-frame between a player having surgery for an ACL injury, and their return to play – somewhere in the region of 250 days. We still haven’t reached the 200 mark for Timber since his surgery, so it’s likely to take another little while before he’s ready to play.

He could be a quick healer, he could well be ahead of schedule, but don’t expect to see him in the squad for the Sheffield United game, for example. With Chelsea beating Leeds in the FA Cup last night, that means our game against them will be postponed until April, and the March schedule now looks like this.

March 4th: Sheffield United (A)
March 9th: Brentford (H)
March 12th: Porto (H)
[INTERLULL 🙄]
March 31st: Man City (A)

My guess is that they might use the Man City game as a target for Timber’s return, giving him basically a full month of first team, full-contact training to see where he is in his recovery from one of the most serious injuries a footballer can sustain. There’s no point rushing anything at this point, everything will have been done by the book and to the letter, so it would make little sense to risk anything now.

If you listened to the pod we did with Dr Andrew Mitchell a couple of weeks ago, you’ll know how crucial this next period is. Where prolonging the rehab can drastically reduce the risk of re-injury, not to mention the fact that when players come back from a lengthy absence or a complicated surgery, they often pick up another little niggle or problem as their body adjusts to the high level they need to be at again.

Which isn’t at all to be negative about Timber, it’s a real step in the right direction and hopefully he can play a significant role in the final part of the season. Let’s just not expect too much too soon.

I suppose the other interesting aspect of his return is where on the pitch we might see him. There has been so much discussion this season about left-back, and how we’d have been better covered if he’d been fit, and that’s probably true. However, despite the fact he started the season there, I think he was bought primarily for the right hand side. If you look at the left back minutes so far this season versus the right, you can see where there’s an imbalance:

Zinchenko – 1728
Tomiyasu – 1053
Kiwior – 1111

It’s worth pointing out that the last two have minutes in other defensive positions this season too, but between them have 22 appearances at left back with Zinchenko appearing there 26 times. Now, spare a thought for your friend and mine Ben White, who has made 36 appearances at right back in all competitions (2773 minutes): Arsenal have played 37 games this season. We are blessed he is generally so robust.

It seems pretty obvious to me that there’s more need for a right-sided player to ease some of that burden, than pigeon-holing Timber as another left-back. Which isn’t to say he can’t play or shouldn’t play there, but if we’re thinking about the balance of the squad, and sharing minutes/workload to get the best out of everyone, that’s where we’re going to need him most. Anyway, time will tell, and let’s hope his recovery continues to be trouble-free and we see him back on the pitch soon.

Right, I’m gonna leave it there for now. Mikel Arteta’s pre-Sheffield United press conference takes place this afternoon, so we’ll cover all the main stories over on Arseblog News. More here tomorrow, including a brand new Arsecast.

Until then.

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