Arsenal have set the return dates of two of their premier fullbacks in Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin. Both of them are still nursing their respective injuries but are expected to return to full training in September. They have also confirmed that defender Rob Holding has already returned to training. He should be in contention to start within next week.
This will serve as a massive boost for Unai Emery, who has missed out on the services of his key defenders so far this season. In this article, we will discuss how the return of Tierney, Bellerin and Holding could affect the current defensive setup.
The curious case of Holding
The departure of Laurent Koscielny in the summer paved the way for Holding to become a prominent member of Arsenal’s defensive unit. He was even tipped as one of the candidates to take over the captaincy. But, that was before the Gunners opted to sign David Luiz.
The Brazilian has quickly become an integral part of the backline, having started the last three matches. However, it will be interesting if the return of Holding could affect his overall game-time. It’s probably fair to point out that Luiz has struggled to impose his authority this season properly and Holding, in that regard, could provide some substantial competition.
What’s next for Maitland-Niles?
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has become a first-team regular at Arsenal this season, due to the absence of Bellerin. But, the Spaniard’s return to full fitness would surely reduce the overall game-time of the youngster, who is predominantly a winger.
That means Bellerin will operate as the first-choice right-back while Maitland-Niles will have to compete with the likes of Reiss Nelson and Nicolas Pepe in the right-wing slot. However, the fact that he can feature as a wing-back will allow him to receive extra game-time, especially with Arsenal participating in the UEFA Europa League this campaign.
More balance in the team
Arsenal are currently operating with two attacking fullbacks in the shape of Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac. That means they are susceptible to exposing themselves during an offensive phase of play.
Bellerin, too, is an attack-minded fullback. But, it’s Tierney, who could reinstate the balance in the defensive department by replacing Kolasinac at left-back. The Scot is a well-rounded fullback, primarily known for his aggression and work-ethic.
He is an ideal fit for the four-man defensive system. And with Arsenal boasting significant firepower on the right flank (Pepe, Nelson, Bellerin & Maitland-Niles), Tierney’s composed presence on the opposite side would help the Gunners employ a right-sided overload.
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