3 solutions to Jurrien Timber’s injury for Mikel Arteta

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Arsenal may have won their opening Premier League fixture, but there was a sucker-punch in the shape of a terrible injury to Jurrien Timber, with the club now unlikely to have the Dutchman for the rest of the season.

Timber exploded onto the scene this pre-season and in Zinchenko’s absence had made that left-back spot his own, whilst showing qualities to be able to slot in and do really well in any position across that back four. Mikel Arteta will be gutted to no longer have him at his disposal, so what now? The window remains open for two more weeks.

Arsenal could turn to senior internal solutions, with the likes of Nuno Tavares, Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding and Cedric still at the club. But I feel this would be the worst thing to do, it just leans into old habits and doesn’t raise the floor of this squad. The club should prioritise selling these players in the coming weeks, allowing room for one new arrival to come in. It appears they will still look to sell those players, with Nuno Tavares in talks with Nottingham Forest and Kieran Tierney in discussions with several Premier League clubs and Real Sociedad.

I think any new arrival would need to cover at least two of the four spots in defence. Here’s three solutions I think would help us in different ways and all have a different associated cost.

1- Marc Guehi

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A central defender comfortable playing as a left or right sided centre back, with the qualities to play as a full back. He’s only 23 and has significant Premier League experience. It would be another England international to add to the ranks and he has the qualities to play for Arsenal.  

The graphic above shows some of the areas where Guehi ranks highest amongst his peers. I have highlighted those that stick out to me most. Clearly this is a player who is very comfortable on the ball and whilst obviously not at the level of Saliba, he’s a player who like Saliba, dictates the ball from the back and likes to keep the game ahead of him. His progressive passing numbers are strong and with 4.14 passes into the final third for Palace, it’s easy to see how he could slot in to this Arsenal team and do really well.

The downside… price. I think at this stage of the window Crystal Palace would probably be looking for £60million to consider selling Guehi. It feels similar to when we signed Ben White for £50million, but accounting for inflation and the stage of the window, £60million feels right.

In terms of on the pitch drawbacks, Guehi stands at just under 6ft, fairly small for a centre back, and subsequently his aerial ability is a weakness. Given his two-footedness and ability to progress the ball, it’s possible Guehi could be an option in the full back positions too, a position where these deficiencies would be less costly.

Wages are unlikely to be an issue, with the player earning around £50,000 a week currently. Arsenal could provide him with a nice increase to around £80-90,000 per week, something reflective of a rotational player in the wage structure. The likes of Aymeric Laporte were also linked, but his wage would probably be triple that.

If the club were to sell Rob Holding, it leaves White as the only right centre back cover for Saliba and possibly Tomiyasu. But with both those players also starting or providing cover at right back and left back, it does seem to stretch the squad a little. Adding another centre back in Guehi would make a lot of sense and I think he’d play plenty.

2 – Kyle Waker-Peters

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Arsenal have historic interest in Walker-Peters and he is an interesting solution. Completely different positionally of course to Guehi, Walker-Peters is capable of helping the Gunners at both right and left back.

Traditionally a right back, he played as an inverted left-back under Ralph Hassenhuntl and did very well. Arsenal do have some options behind Zinchenko at left back in Tomiyasu and Kiwior, so I don’t think it’s essential to sign a natural left back, even if Tierney is sold. But it would be a bonus to have Kyle as an option in that position whilst also providing competition on the right.

Signing a full back like Walker-Peters compared to a centre-back like Guehi would give the team more options from the bench to change games. In a five sub era, having someone like this to turn too off the bench could be critical in being able to change 1 point to 3.

In White and Tomiyasu Arsenal currently have quite conservative right-back options (and Thomas Partey). Walker-Peters though could stretch games and combine with Bukayo Saka to cause some serious problems on that right side when we need a goal.

What really stands out in the graphic above is the players ability to both carry the ball and be secure in possession. 90% pass completion for a team like Southampton and playing as a full back, is very impressive. It gives you assurances about his technical ability. We also have signed players who excel at carrying the ball in recent years and this player stands out from the crowd in that aspect.

3.5 carries per 90 and 1.6 successful take ons are quality stats for a full back and it would give Arsenal another option who can break lines and deep blocks.

From a sheer numbers point of view, it feels like Arsenal may need to shift Cedric, Tavares and Tierney before bringing in another full back option.

Southampton’s Championship season is now underway and they will want to keep hold of the 26-year-old.

3 – Reuell Walters

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Walters is very highly rated at the club and has experience playing across the back four. The difficulty the club now have is that there’s no Europa League to blood players like Walters, would Arteta be prepared to chuck him into a league game or Champions League?

I’m all for giving young players the opportunity and think this really could be a window for Walters. What I wouldn’t want though, is Arsenal to keep someone like Rob Holding around too, because the reality is Arteta would likely lean into experience when the time came for one of them to play.

Providing we don’t have another serious injury at the back, Arteta probably wouldn’t need to rely on Walters from the start of games. The Gunners still have Gabriel, Saliba, White and Kiwior as quality centre back options, and White, Tomiyasu and Partey as options on the right.

The likes of Walters, Cozier-Dubbery, Nwaneri and Lewis-Skelly made brief appearances in Arsenal’s pre-season, but it felt like there were no plans for their inclusion in the senior squad this season. This injury though, may have presented an opportunity for Walters.

It would be great if we had a nice fixture in the League Cup to test Walters initially. If there’s space on the bench in some matchdays in the Premier League and Champions League too, Arteta could introduce Walters at right-back initially to find his feet in this team.

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