Timber’s Injury: Reviewing Arsenal’s Left Back Alternatives
Jurrien Timber joined Arsenal earlier in the summer and bedded himself in time to join the squad that travelled to the Unites States for the MLS preseason tour. Timber has always been known for his versatility, featuring as a center back, right back and right wing back from his Ajax days, but Mikel Arteta featured him in the Oleksandr Zinchenko left back role and he blended in like water off a duck’s back, giving his manager the confidence to feature him in the Community Shield victory over Manchester City as a left back.
Timber expectedly started in the left back inverting role in the hard fought win over Nottingham Forest but he came up short in an innocuous challenge late in the first half. I was surprised to see Timber come out after the break, but five minutes into the restart, he hit the deck when he received a pass and I feared the worst, as he was subbed off for Takehiro Tomiyasu, with Kieran Tierney, his regular substitute, not in the playing squad.
After the game, the gaffer shared his thoughts on Timber’s injury,
“No, the officials, the doctors, they looked at him and they were happy to continue, him as well, but straight away in the second half the first action he made a movement and it was a bit funny so we took him straight out and now we have to assess him to see what he has.”
Timber has been accessed and it is believed that he has suffered an ACL injury, which will sideline him for a very lengthy period. This news is a heavy blow for Arsenal, as Timber was adjusting well to life at Arsenal, as well as making a name for himself in the left back inverted role, that earned him some plaudits from the incumbent, Zinchenko,
“Maybe he is [similar], but maybe better than me. I’m sure he is 100 per cent going to show us what he can do, and will really help us. I do know about him because I watched him and followed the way he played at Ajax,” he began.
“Also, I played against him for the national team so I know about him as a player, what amazing qualities he has, and now I know him off the pitch. He’s a great guy, another incredible signing for Arsenal who will help us a lot”
In the wake of Timber’s layoff, Arteta will need to look within his squad for the Dutch full back’s replacement. Here are some of the alternatives for Arsenal to continue the campaign with.
Zinchenko revolutionized Arsenal’s attacking play with his style that came to stay, keeping the starting left back, Tierney, out of the side for a considerable chunk of last season. Zinchenko, however, had challenges with injuries, which made him miss a lot of games, especially at the tail end of the campaign.
The injuries had continued into this season, with Timber taking the reins of the left back role with Zinchenko nursing a calf injury. Arteta has confirmed that his Ukrainian fullback has returned to fitness, but Zinchenko hasn’t featured at all this season, and will need some game time to get a hang of things.
Tierney didn’t start any game during the preseason, but he always came on as a substitute for whoever played at left back, whether it was Timber or Tomiyasu. However, Tierney has been on the back pages for a potential move out of Arsenal with proposed loan moves from Real Sociedad and even, Newcastle on the cards.
For a player that has always been a regular for the entirety of his career, spending this much time on the bench hasn’t been something Tierney is used to, but Timber’s injury, as well as Zinchenko not fully ready for first team action, can pave the way for Tierney to get some consistent minutes.
Sadly, he is quite terrible at inverting to central midfield, as he’s more used to being a traditional byline hugging left back, so that would be a concern for Arteta.
Arsenal’s Polish defender joined the club in January 2023 and took some time to adapt with life in North London, but towards the end of last season, Arteta tried out Kiwior as a left back, and I can’t really say the experiment was a success.
Kiwior is certainly comfortable with the ball at his feet, but his lack of agility constrains him to really make his mark on that role.
The fact that Tomiyasu can feature as a left back, center back and right back makes him such an important Swiss Army Knife in the defense. With Timber suffering that untimely injury on Saturday, Arteta called on Tomiyasu to hold the fort, and as expected, he slot in without any hitch.
In as much as it hurts to see Timber out for the foreseeable future, Arsenal has more than enough players to provide adequate cover in the left back role. I wish Timber a speedy recovery and I hope the blow from his absence will be cushioned by the quality of the team.
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