Arsenal: Conundrum at LEFT Back?

Where’s the cover?

Yesterday RC79 asked whether there was an issue with our right back position and whether or not we ought to be going into the market for a replacement for Hector Bellerin or for a better ‘back-up’ option than Cedric.

It prompted an interesting discussion that ranged across the merits or otherwise of Bellerin, Cedric, Maitland-Niles, Chambers and up-and-coming youth team prospects.

But GoonerB threw a spanner in the works by suggesting we were looking in the wrong place. Our problem was not at right back, but at left back. Here’s his argument:

When analysing the squad I start from the position of accepting two main things. 

Firstly that behind a world class 1st 11, a successful squad needs useful utility and squad players in it that will not sulk if they are 2nd choice, but are of decent quality and will always give their all when called upon.

Secondly, that I don’t expect us to have world class cover in all positions right now; we are still a developing team, but are further on than I think many believe.

I am in agreement with RA that we should look within more, particularly our academy players, when looking for back up options. They tick the boxes of generally not sulking at being 2nd choice and work hard to impress when called upon.

As this season progresses we will learn more about certain players and this will help us be more certain what we need to do in the summer. 

The jury is out for me on many players and I don’t want us to rush in our judgement on certain players. Some, like Willian and Pepe, that have been flattering to deceive, may come good with confidence placed in them. Some will prove to not be good enough as 1st choice or suitable as a number two.

My feelings on Bellerin tend to yoyo. Sometimes I feel he is stepping up but at other times I feel he is lacking in certain qualities that he should have in his locker by now. 

He is not a new arrival, has had a lot of playing time in his best position, and is a decent age now. Having said that I want to see how he goes for the rest of the season and in the right balanced formation.

I also agree with those that would keep Chambers. Let us not forget that many felt he was looking our best defender pre-latest injury, and I also concur that he could be useful in three positions. 

I see him at worst as one of those highly useful squad players that can be as important as the single superstar.

I’m actually less concerned about right back with options from Bellerin, Soares, AMN and Chambers. We can see if a quality upgrade is needed in the summer but would also like to see the youngster RA mentioned given a go (Zac Swanson ).

At left full back we have no questions on quality with our first choice, but we have no back up options, AMN aside and I’m not sure about that one. I’d like to see AMN used more often but in a different role to Tierney’s back up.

We just loaned out our 2nd choice and I believe Bola is also out on loan, so unless he is recalled we look sparse on options should something happen to Tierney. I also worry about our back up options to Leno so, for me, GK and LFB are the areas that we could potentially suffer in more than RFB this season.

One final thing. Total Arsenal, you said in comments that you thought it was a masterstroke to move Saka to the attacking right. Well on this very site there is a cerebrally-challenged blogging moron who has called for this for some time, in addition to a couple of the other more esteemed bloggers on here. Maybe Mikel should have started looking in on AA earlier in the season.



32 Responses to Arsenal: Conundrum at LEFT Back?

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    GB, you are a genius. GB you are a genius. There I said it twice. 😉😊

    I did indeed read you saying that, so all credit to you.

    Good point re left back cover. Some shoes to fill if, knock on wood, Tierney gets injured! AMN did well there and Bola is our youth option. And then there is Gabriel who would at least be solid in defence and may even have a mean cross or two in his locker. But it is less resolved than on the right at the moment.

  2. RockyLives says:

    Good point to raise GB.

    There is no mention of Cedric as potential LB cover in your piece, yet I believe he has already played there for us a couple of times and is someone who can cover both FB positions (although one assumes he’s more comfortable on the right, being right footed).

    As I mentioned in the RB discussion, Cedric is someone I’m prepared to give more time to.

  3. GoonerB says:

    Haha, my very own compost. It may surprise you but while I advocate the inverted wing forward, my preference is for the opposite in the full-back behind them, as I think it forms a more fluid partnership. It’s a yin and yang thing.

    You get the option of in-swinging and out-swinging balls and the inclination of the wing forward to cut inside, and drag the defenders with them to cover a potential shooting opportunity, creates the dynamic overlap which often results in those dangerous low balls across the box.

    As such I wouldn’t want to rely on 2 right footers covering the role for an extended period. If Bola is back at the club now must surely be his time. I think he is now around 20 or 21? He is a youngster but not a young youngster and should be at peak time to step up as a number 2.

  4. RockyLives says:

    “compost” 😀

  5. TotalArsenal says:

    Those balls sound scary, GB 😳

  6. RC78 says:

    Thanks GB for a great post.

    As for the conundrum on LB, I think you are spot on for the back-up option. Tierney is proving to be a very astute signing and some bloggers are already touting him to be considered as a future captain. Well it would be great indeed to see him stay with us in the long-term and become one of our captains but I think his stay with us will also be dictated by our ability to win trophies so let us hope things work out for the best

    As for the back-up option, I think the best one is still AMN especially since Kola left. Kola will not play for us again. I have not seen Bola play and I am not sure he is getting a lot of playing time…

    So for now, I d say AMN is the best answer to the conundrum until we find a left-footed left back…

  7. Pete the Thirst says:

    What about using Luiz as back up at left back? He can do less damage there than in the centre and he’s left footed.

    AMN it is then…

  8. RC78 says:

    In case, we go for a young LB. Nuno Mendes from Sporting is highly touted, 18 years old.

  9. RC78 says:

    and also Yanis Hamache (21) and Grimaldo (25).

  10. RA says:

    Excellent Post, GB,

    Plenty of options for both LB, RB and wing forwards and that shows concerns in the minds of many/some bloggers, and rightly so.

    You have a free thinking and slightly anarchic way of addressing tactics and noe positional roles, and I like that.
    Well done, sir.

    [Bola and Zac (another NY Yankee like Balogunner) are both out on loan at the mo getting the experience they need, but both are worth investing in, both physically and with diversity.
    Each can play both LB and RB, and Zac can be used in midfield too.]

  11. RA says:

    Mikel has announced Mari as the leader of the Arsenal defence — presumably the CBs will be Mari, Gabriel and Holding??

  12. RockyLives says:

    Hello Redders

    Where did you see that about MA saying Mari was the leader of the defence?

    Did he man ‘a’ leader or ‘the’ leader. The latter would be odd given what we paid for Gabriel and given the faith there seems to be in him.

  13. Gööner In Exile says:

    GB whilst you were calling for inverted wingers the problem generally was that Pepe was on the right and already inverted meaning Arteta had to upset him or persevere with Saka on the left and PEA up top, Pepe’s weakness is perhaps that while his right foot is good for dribbling I can’t think of it being very useful for passing and crossing.

    Anyway back to the main part of your post, which also needs to consider Saka, he has been used at left wing back, and whilst that may take away his attacking merits on the right would certainly give us cover defensively and keep up the quality of delivery from the left, although he would need a foil to play off. AMN can also cover and I dare say Mari could cover in that position defensively.

    What of Hale End prospects in the LB position?

  14. RA says:

    Hi Rocky,

    I get sports related news about Arsenal flashed up on my iPhone.

    They are usually one liners — as I recall, Mikel said, ‘Pablo Mari, displayed leadership skills and was the leader of the defence”. [It was probably taken from a longer interview??]

    I don’t think that was in anyway detrimental to Gabriel, but was simply acknowledging the experience and skill of Pablo, I guess.

    Maybe letting Luiz etc know the way the wind is blowing??

    I am not the interpreter or spokes-person for Mikel, of course, so he would possibly say my interpretation of what he said is bollocks. 😁

  15. RockyLives says:

    Thanks Redders
    That makes sense.

    Mari has been a pleasant surprise.

  16. adamz says:

    i think the youth manager should do the needful in the accademy to finds us LFB

  17. adamz says:

    the only problem we are still facing is a defensive midfielder ,Thomas looks to be an injury pron

  18. Pete the Thirst says:

    @RC78 I like the sound of Grimaldo

    I hope there’s a defensive midfielder in Brazil called Badfoudo. A no nonsense enforcer who has been sent off many times.

  19. Pete the Thirst says:

    Perfect Brazilian midfield:

    Badfouldo – The enforcer

    Kikbaldo – Playmaker

    Morgoldo – Box to box frequent scorer

  20. RC78 says:

    Great Brazilian names PTT 🙂

    Grimaldo is actually an interesting player because he refused to be benched at Barcelona and opted for the Portuguese league to gain more playing time. He is a former Spanish youth international. I like him. I think he could be a very good back-up but he d need to improve his defensive game. Going forward, he is great. Another good youngish Spanish left back is of course Gaya from Barcelona.

    Here is a Brazilian squad that you may like:

    Allisson – Cafu, T. Silva, Moser, R. Carlos – Garrincha, Dunga, Zico – Pele, Rivaldo (or Ronaldinho) – Ronaldo

    What do you think?

  21. fred1266 says:

  22. GoonerB says:

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    RA, I love your description of how my mind works, but you make it sound so much more sophisticated and mercurial than it actually is.

    Total, out-swinging and in-swinging balls are very scary. You never know which balls are coming at you.

    GIE, I get that bit about Pepe maybe upsetting Arteta’s decision making but I dont quite fully buy it. I still believe he made an error in not switching the formation and players position sooner.

    Pepe hit 22 goals and 11 assists in the season before he came to us but was largely playing 2nd fiddle to Willian who in turn should have been fighting for a central attacking role instead.

    Saka for me looks excellent on the right and is my 1st choice there right now, but I also think he would be effective as a number 10 option as well, as long as Pepe steps up and starts delivering what he is capable of.

    RC, I like your Brazillian team, but it would have to have Ronaldinho in it. He is one of the finest players I have seen with a ball at his feet.

  23. GoonerB says:

    RC, out if interest I wondered what you thought about the England teams potential at the moment?

    I think there is a question mark with CD but other than that I think England have their strongest options for many years. However, like my thoughts with Arteta untill recently I feel Southgate is not using the right formation or players and is being overly cautious with a team that looks built to attack.

    Sara’s form on the right for us should give Southhate a whole new option and attacking formation to play with. How about this fir a team in a 4-1-2-3 (or possibly 4-1-4-1, if you like) set up:

    ———————— Pope
    James —— Maguire —– Mings —– Chilwell
    ———————- Henderson
    ———— Foden ————— Grealish
    —– Saka ———— Kane ————— Sterling

    There are also a few options in each of those positions in this set up, maybe Saka’s position aside.

  24. RC78 says:

    I tend to agree with you GoonerB when it comes to England. I feel that the team has more depth and options than previous ones, including the ones with Gerrard, Scholes and co…

    I agree that Southgate is really struggling to find the right shape/formation for the squad but for sure, there is plenty of quality except, indeed, in defense.

    I d play:
    Henderson – Trent-Arnold, Stones, Mings, Chilwell – Rice, Henderson – Rashford, Grealish, Sterling – Kane

    I do not rate Maguire at all and I think that an in-form Stones is your best defender. Also, I rate Henderson higher than Pope and Pickford.

    Now you have a big reserve for the other 12
    – Pickford, Pope,
    – James, Walker, Trippier,
    – Keane, Coady, Tarko, Maguire
    – AMN, Sessegnon, Shaw
    – Dier, Foden
    – Saka, Oxlade, Sancho, Maddison
    – Lewin, Ings

  25. RC78 says:

    In that 12 – Pope and Pickford r going so you are left with 10…

  26. RC78 says:

    If Man Utd wins the league, I d be so upset! I hope Ole and his boys crumble and drop out of the Top 4 on the last day…I really rate of their players but I think I hate Man Utd more than Spurs…I just can’t stand that club, I associate with the Keanes, Van Nilsteroys, Stam and other dirty players in the 90s and early 2000s…can’t stand them.

  27. Gööner In Exile says:

    RC78, GB – No Holding in that England line up?

  28. GoonerB says:

    GiE, Holding was one at the forefront of my mind when I was thinking about options. If he continues to play regularly and well for us he is knocking on the door of a starting spot but should at least be in the squad now, as should ESR.

    You might have noticed that I more or less set England up as we have done recently with 3 CM’s behind a front 3 comprising inverted wing forwards. Only that I have gone for 2 ACM’s with 1 holding CM. After Grealish and Foden you have Maddison and our own ESR.

    I felt Southgate was making a similar mistake to us by often playing 3 CB’s and not having a left footed attacker operating on the right of the 9. Saka has given him a solution to that so he can now set up to exploit the attacking strength he has at his disposal.

    England are light on top CB’s, LFB’s and left footed wide right attackers but have strength in depth everywhere else. At international level, even more so than at club level, it is important to maximise where you are strong and not set up to try and hide your weaknesses, which is what I feel Siuthgate has been doing in recent games.

  29. RC78 says:

    I don’t mind Holding and I will make a post about him right now 🙂

  30. Gööner In Exile says:

    I think I like Holding because he is unfussy, and rarely goes to ground. Great defenders don’t have to slide tackle that often especially not centrebacks, more forgivable of wing backs as they are often chasing back or having to deal with a speedy winger. He also does. It get ruffled by whoever he faces, remember when he dealt with Costa in the cup final. He just seems to enjoy the game.

    Adams, Campbell, O’Leary all defenders we had who could do the most of what was necessary on their feet.

  31. Gööner In Exile says:

    Does it = doesn’t

  32. RC78 says:

    New post 🙂

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