Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Oleksandr Zinchenko boost as Arsenal suspension opens door for Kieran Tierney recall vs Fulham

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is perhaps fortunate to have so many left-backs at his disposal as he will be on to his third option of the season when Fulham visit the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

After unfortunately losing summer signing Jurrien Timber to an ACL injury, the Spaniard opted for Takehiro Tomiyasu as the versatile defender’s replacement in the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Monday night as he lined up alongside Thomas Partey, Benjamin White and William Saliba in front of goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

However, the Japan international’s first competitive start since March ended a lot earlier than he would have liked. Sent-off in the 67th minute for two bookable offences – somewhat harshly in the view of Sky Sports pair Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville – his punishment is a one-game suspension to be served this weekend.


As a result, Arteta will be forced into making at least one change to the side that started at Selhurst Park with Oleksandr Zinchenko in line to reclaim the left-back role after returning to action in the London derby as a late substitute. Alternatively, Jakub Kiwior could get the nod depending on the Ukrainian’s fitness.


Whilst the Arsenal manager mulls over who should replace Tomiyasu, has taken a look at what other changes the Spanish tactician could be contemplating with regard to the starting XI or the matchday squad especially as two senior players, in particular, might earn themselves a recall.


Gabriel return?


The one surprise takeaway from Arsenal’s first two games of the season has been the sight of Gabriel Magalhaes amongst the substitutes. It has led to speculation that he could leave amid reported interest from Real Madrid and the Saudi Pro League but Arteta has explained his decisions have been purely tactical and that the defender will get game time.


“It’s about the games that we were expecting, what I was expecting, how we wanted to defend and attack and our belief it was the best thing,” the Spaniard said when asked to explain his selection choice. “He’s played in both games (off the bench against both Palace and Nottingham Forest), he’s helped us to win both games for different reasons. He was really good today, he absolutely dominated the box. He’s going to play a lot of games. That’s the decision sometimes.”


But will Gabriel return against Fulham? Well with the Gunners expected to see most of the ball at the weekend, it could be that Arteta sticks to a more attacking approach and brings the defender off the bench if his side are once again in a position where they need to protect a lead.


Tierney recall

With Tomiyasu suspended and Timber injured, Arsenal will need extra reinforcements against Fulham. Assuming one of Zinchenko or Kiwior – or even Gabriel – starts the game it would leave just two natural defenders on the bench and so far this season Arteta has opted for three.


If the Spaniard plans to continue with this trend and taking into consideration that Cedric Soares and Nuno Tavares are out of favour currently, the door has opened for Kieran Tierney to be named in the matchday squad at the very least as he’s also an option to start at left-back.



A casualty of Arsenal’s increased squad depth and fewer injuries, as a defensive-minded player one would assume that the Scotland international – along with Rob Holding who has also been left out of both matchday squads so far this season – is in line for a recall on what could be a chance to bid farewell to the Emirates faithful amid speculation regarding his future.


Freshen up the attack


Arsenal were brilliant defensively on Monday night, especially after being reduced to 10-men as the introductions of Gabriel, Zinchenko, Kiwior and Jorginho gave them a solid base and Palace found it very difficult to break them down as barring Tyrick Mitchell’s chance, Ramsdale was largely untroubled.


However, the attack didn’t quite click. Eddie Nketiah worked hard – won the penalty from which Martin Odegaard converted – but missed a golden opportunity, Gabriel Martinelli as well as Kai Havertz struggled to make any sort of an impact and Bukayo Saka was on the fringes before switching to left-wing back after Tomiyasu’s red card.


The likelihood of the entire quartet being replaced is probably very slim, but Arteta has options in Leandro Trossard, Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe if he chooses to freshen things up.

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