Monday, May 20, 2024

Should a left-back be on the summer shopping list?

Morning.

Let’s start with congratulations to Arsenal Women who made it to the Conti Cup Final last night with a 4-0 win over Aston Villa (report and goal clips here). The other semi-final between Man City and Chelsea takes place this evening, to decide who will join is in what will be a heavyweight final. Afterwards, Jonas Eidevall said:

Going into finals is steps in the right direction. It doesn’t mean we are fully developed yet but you can see with the attendances we draw, we compete and go to finals, we are competing in the league, these are positive signs and we can be encouraged and keep building on them, not just this year but for the future.

You can read his full reaction, plus thoughts from Lia Walti, over on Arseblog News.

Elsewhere, we can continue to ignore reports from Spain about Barcelona and Mikel Arteta. You have to take much of what comes from the local press with a hefty pinch of salt, but if they did try and make contact with him to take over from Xavi in the summer, it wouldn’t be a big surprise. They are quite literally a shameless club who would go to one of Europe’s best young coaches to offer him a job where he’d have no money, no stability, turmoil in the background, finances in the toilet, and no stadium of their own to play in because the Camp Nou is being redeveloped from the ramshackle mess it is into something sponsored by goddam Spotify.

Apparently he very politely declined and told them he was a ‘Gunner’, but that was probably just a polite version of ‘Are you out of your ever-loving minds?’.

Other spurious transfer speculation links Oleksandr Zinchenko to Bayern Munich, which is probably nonsense as well, but I do think it’s an interesting starting point for a bit of a discussion. I have a gut feeling that a left-back might be on our summer shopping list, which sounds a bit counter-intuitive when you look at the squad and realise it’s the position in which we probably have most depth when everyone is fit.

There’s Zinchenko himself; Takehiro Tomiyasu has played there regularly; Jurrien Timber started the season there; and right now Jakub Kiwior is playing very well at left-back in the absence of all three of them. When you look at it a bit more closely though, you could see why there might be something for Mikel Arteta and Edu to pay attention to here.

Zinchenko – Not a left-back, per se. A creative midfielder who plays there because he is left-footed and brings things to our game and structure that have been massively beneficial. I genuinely think some of the chat about his defensive ability is overplayed, but there’s no question that is not the strongest part of his game and it’s a weakness teams have deliberately exploited at times this season.

Not to mention his injury record, something we knew all about from his time at Man City, means that with two years left on his deal this summer, we could be at tipping point where a decision has to be made. Do we renew or sell? I don’t think we’ll renew, so do keep him one more year before deciding to sell? Certainly a possibility.

Tomiyasu – I love him as a player, but his injury record means you can’t be sure of his availability. Plus, I think Arteta loves his versatility when he is fit, as he offers cover/depth in every defensive position, not just left-back. He is set to sign a new contract, which I’m on board with because of how good he is (even if the injuries worry me), but until he stays fully fit all the time, we can’t really consider him a starter week in, week out.

Timber – As I wrote last week, although he started the season there, my feeling is he is a player who was brought in to play primarily on the right hand side. It is imperative that we have a credible alternative to Ben White to ease the burden on him – not just a player you can feel ok bringing on when we’re 6-0 up. Which isn’t to say he can’t or won’t play left-back, but if we’re building the squad properly, his role on the other side of the pitch may well preclude that.

Kiwior – He is doing very well at the moment, and credit to him. That said, I just don’t really see him as a long-term option in that position. He is doing a great job out of position – in as much as a centre-half playing full-back can be considered that in the modern game – but is he someone who could/should be first choice there? I don’t think so.

Update: I forgot Kieran Tierney (sorry K-Dog!), but I think he’ll be on the departure list this summer anyway.

So, while we have options, I just wonder if there might be a desire to bring someone in who could be the unequivocal first choice in that position. I have no idea who it might be, or what kind of player we actually need there. Zinchenko’s influence has been undeniable, but that’s not something you can just do forever. Teams adapt to your strengths, and and to stay ahead of the pack you need tactical tweaks and changes – and this feels like an area where we’ve juiced pretty much everything we can out of it.

Anyway, I guess we’ll find out during the summer, but in the unquenchable search for a striker, and the need to reinforce midfield on the back of a couple of mooted departures, this is one I’d keep an eye on.

Right, we’ll bring you all the latest from Mikel Arteta’s press conference a bit later this afternoon on Arseblog News. Back tomorrow with more, and an Arsecast. Until then, have a good one.

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