Arsenal were boosted by the return of their defensive trio of Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney during the midweek’s EFL Cup game against Nottingham Forest. The lack of defensive solidity was one of the club’s main issues for them despite a strong start to the season. But, will these three players be able to really solve the Gunners’ defensive problems?
Hector Bellerin: The answer to Emery’s right-back issues
Unai Emery has had a difficult time finding a reliable right-back following Bellerin’s injury earlier this year. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was given the task of deputising for the Spaniard last season, albeit in a slightly advanced wing-back role. He did well, for the most part, helping Arsenal reach the final of the UEFA Europa League.
This season, however, Maitland-Niles has struggled in a fully-fledged right-back role. He has looked tentative with the ball at his feet and has failed to cope with the high press from the opposition.
Another player Emery has utilised at right-back is Calum Chambers. The ex-Southampton star played well against Nottingham but is likely to struggle against a more disciplined and quality opponent. Hence, the return of Bellerin will go a long way in solving Arsenal’s right-back problems.
Kieran Tierney: A potential upgrade over Kolasinac?
Following the departure of Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac was the only recognised left-back at the disposal of Emery. The Bosnian international did, however, do an excellent job, putting in consistent displays and helping Arsenal make an impressive start to this campaign.
However, Emery may have found an upgrade over Kolasinac in the shape of Tierney. The new signing from Celtic showed a lot of promise against Nottingham Forest in midweek. His ability to play the ball out from the back coupled with his crossing prowess makes him a better fit to Arsenal’s gameplan than Kolasinac.
It will be interesting to see how Tierney performs in the Premier League. There is no doubt that the Scot has the potential to become a key member of Emery’s first-team this season.
Rob Holding: Finally an alternative in defence
David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos were the only two defensive options for Emery, following the departure of Laurent Koscielny and Monreal while Shkodran Mustafi was not included in his plans. However, neither of the two defenders have been able to add any solidity at the back.
Instead, they have made a couple of defensive errors that led to Arsenal losing points in the English top-flight. Therefore, Holding’s return to full fitness will hopefully heap pressure on both these defenders to put in some improved performances in the coming weeks. Even Mustafi is pushing for a start after impressing against Nottingham and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Arsenal’s defensive problems may not come to a quick end. But, these three defenders, following their return to full fitness, will surely make the job relatively easier for Emery.
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