Mikel Arteta’s decision to sign Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City last summer has ultimately reduced Kieran Tierney’s game time this season.
Whilst the Spaniard has stuck with his preferred 4-3-3 formation, there has been a slight tweak to the shape. This is evident at left-back in particular as the role no longer requires a marauding defender offering width down that flank; instead Zinchenko tucks in as an inverted full-back.
Given the Ukraine international’s background as a central midfielder, it’s a role that suits him to a tee and his assist for Bukayo Saka in the 4-0 win over Everton further vindicates Arteta’s decision to name him in the Arsenal starting line-up when fit and available for selection.
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However, Zinchenko’s importance has resulted in Tierney going from being the Gunners’ undisputed first choice at left-back – as well as a future contender as permanent captain – to a rotation option in less than a year, and the 25-year-old is now reportedly considering his future at the Emirates Stadium.
With that said, the Scotland international, as confirmed by Arteta ahead of the 2-2 Europa League round of 16 first-leg draw against Sporting CP, continues to be the consummate professional despite the fact he has played just 20 minutes in the Premier League since the turn of the year.
“Very good because we talked and we discussed the situation and we had a very similar opinion about that”, the Arsenal manager told football.london. “He knows his role – under me he’s played a lot, more than any other player probably compared to the previous players at the club in the last three years and he understands the situation and he needs to challenge the situation.”
Were Tierney to leave Arsenal this summer, one would assume that Arteta and sporting director Edu Gaspar will look to sign a direct replacement in the transfer window, especially considering Zinchenko has missed 12 games across all competitions so far this season through injury.
But there’s a popular feeling amongst some supporters on social media that Takehiro Tomiyasu, signed as a right-back in the summer of 2021, should be permanently converted into a left-back after an impressive cameo against Sporting CP when he replaced Zinchenko in the second half.
@King_Emalizzy said: “Tomiyasu has been a better LB than RB this season”, @DrewGyebi said: “In my humble opinion the LB position should be Tomiyasu’s bona fide property. Zinchenko can play any position: he is a utility player, @anyika_vk stated: “Unpopular opinion, Tomiyasu is more of a LB than a RB.”
Meanwhile, @JeradMartin said: “After yesterday’s game, I’m fully convinced Tomiyasu is a LB, he’s so good at that position,” @Teefriel_ said “That Tomiyasu cameo at LB made me realise he’s never been a RB. That’s his position, that’s where he belongs” and @osowxvyy said: “I think we should change Tomiyasu’s position to LB. Looks much more solid in that position.”
Interestingly, Arteta has started Tomiyasu at left-back on a number of occasions this season. Most notably against Liverpool and Leeds United during the first half of the campaign when Tierney was available, but whether a permanent change will be considered if the Scot leaves in the summer remains to be seen.
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