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Six Arsenal solutions for Mikel Arteta amid Kieran Tierney blow

by rks2008


The Gunners have several options to solve their full-back crisis and with Champions League qualification at stake it’s essential that they pick the right one.

The Gunners gave us their first showing of life without Tierney on Monday night against Crystal Palace as Tavares was thrust into the starting line up for the first time since January.

The Portugal under-21 international was hooked after just 45 minutes though and concerning nature of his performance have left many wondering if Arsenal need to pursue alternative solutions at full-back.

Failure to cope in Tierney’s absence arguably cost the Gunners at the business end of last season and it is essential that history is not allowed to repeat itself.

With that in mind football.london takes a look at the options available to Arteta over a crucial run of matches in the coming weeks.

Stick with Tavares

The easiest option would probably be to stick with Nuno Tavares. The Portuguese full-back was brought in to provide cover for Kieran Tierney, and now that the Scot is out it’s surely time for him to do exactly that.

It’s not as if he’s not done it before. When Tierney suffered a knee injury early in the season, the former Benfica man did a sterling job of deputising and even kept Arsenal’s vice captain out of the side for a little while when he returned to full fitness.

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Cedric at left back, White at right back

The versatility of the Arsenal squad means that Mikel Arteta does still have options if he feels Tavares is not to be trusted going forward. One of these would be to switch Cedric over to left back.

The 30-year-old had an extended run in the team their last season during one of Tierney’s injury absences and did pretty well, with his pass to Bukayo Saka in the build to Alexandre Lacazette ‘s goal during the 3-1 win over Southampton proving a highlight.

Arteta has previously described Cedric as “probably the best [full-back Arsenal] have in the final third” and if he wanted to ensure the Portuguese international continued to be as efficient going forward then he could ask Ben White to switch out to right back, with Rob Holding coming in to the heart of defence.

Back three

Another option available to Mikel Arteta is to rip up the back four entirely and switch to a back three.

This is a system he has used in the past to great effect, employing it en route to victories in the FA Cup and Community Shield during his first season in charge.

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With the personnel available to Arsenal at the moment it’s easy to see how switching back to this would work.

Xhaka at left back

This was the option Mikel Arteta went for last season and the one he reverted to when hauling off Nuno Tavares on Monday night.

By his own admission Granit Xhaka is a player who likes to operate with the game in front of him as opposed to the more advanced eight role he has played in recent months. Playing left back enables him to do this.

Arteta’s penchant for the inverted full-back would mean that the Swiss international would essentially find himself in the same left defensive half space where he spent much of last season.

Here he is allowed plenty more space and time on the ball to look up and dictate play. This set up would also allow Cedric to bomb forward, ensuring that Arsenal’s strong attack on the right hand side continues.

Saka at left back

Another option that is well known to Arsenal fans is the possibility of playing Bukayo Saka at left back.

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This is the position where the England international first broke in to the team, and having excelled there in the past it’s easy to see how he could do the same again.

Saka would essentially be a replica of the role Kieran Tierney played at left back last season, overlapping the left winger and looking to support the attack with pinpoint delivery.

The 20-year-old is also defensively switched on and has shown himself to be decent in one-vs-one situations in the past.

Trust the youth

One other option that’s available to Mikel Arteta to solve his problems at full-back is to promote from within.

When Arsenal were in the midst of a creativity crisis last season that saw them 16th in the Premier League heading into Boxing Day, the promotion of Emile Smith Rowe from the youth set up worked a treat, so why not repeat the trick again.

Hale Ender Mazeed Ogungbo was called onto the bench on Monday night and despite spending most of his time playing as a centre-back in a back three for Kevin Betsy’s under-23 side this season he is capable of playing at left back or left wing back.

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