Mikel Arteta finds himself grappling with the repercussions of two significant injuries within the Arsenal squad this season, posing a challenge for the team’s overall performance.
The absence of Jurrien Timber since August and the recent sidelining of the in-form Takehiro Tomiyasu have left noticeable gaps in the defensive lineup. As a consequence, Oleksandr Zinchenko has seen an increase in playing time at left-back, a development that has raised concerns, according to football analyst Owen Hargreaves.
Expressing his thoughts on Premier League Productions (broadcasted on 11/12/23 at 2:30 pm), the former Bayern Munich midfielder identified Zinchenko as Arsenal’s ‘only weakness.’ Despite acknowledging the overall strength of the team, Hargreaves cast doubt on the Ukrainian player’s defensive capabilities.
In Arsenal’s recent Premier League defeat, Zinchenko faced criticism for his role in John McGinn’s opening goal. Allowing Leon Bailey to exploit him from Aston Villa’s right flank, Zinchenko’s defending raised eyebrows, with even Arsenal legend Tony Adams reportedly ‘laughing’ at the versatile star.
Hargreaves emphasized the need for a different approach at left-back, questioning Zinchenko’s tendency to move into midfield, which, according to him, contributed to defensive vulnerabilities. He urged Zinchenko to focus on his defensive duties and highlighted it as the team’s singular weakness.
The scrutiny on Zinchenko’s performance raises strategic questions for Arsenal. Hargreaves speculated on potential solutions, suggesting the acquisition of another center-back to emulate Pep Guardiola’s approach, possibly deploying someone like Gvardiol at left-back. Alternatively, he proposed securing a traditional left-back to shore up the defensive line.
As the January transfer window approaches, Arsenal faces decisions on how to bolster their squad for a serious Premier League title challenge. While discussions revolve around the need for a striker or a center-back, financial constraints, including the impact of Financial Fair Play (FFP), add complexity to the decision-making process.
The urgency is palpable, considering Arsenal’s experiences in the previous January window, where attempts to sign targets proved challenging. With FFP limitations in mind, the board at Arsenal must navigate the delicate balance of strengthening the squad without wasting precious time in the pursuit of viable options. The upcoming transfer window promises to be a critical juncture for Arsenal’s strategic planning and aspirations for success in the Premier League.