A recent Mikel Arteta decision “worked a treat”, though one observer has claimed it could accelerate a major Arsenal star’s exit.
Almost everything Mikel Arteta touches of late turns to gold. Following the crushing disappointment of being pipped to foourth spot by Tottenham last season, Arsenal have rebounded in fantastic style.
Their summer window brought the arrival of a new starting striker in Gabriel Jesus. After years of toiling away from the bench or on the right wing at the Etihad, Jesus is now showing exactly what he’s capable of up front.
William Saliba was finally given his chance to stake a claim to a starting berth at centre-back. The young Frenchman has been a revelation this season, forcing last season’s centre-half Ben White over to right-back.
Arsenal currently top the Premier League table with eight wins in their first nine matches. Their last two victories against Tottenham and Liverpool laid to rest the criticism of not yet having played stiff competition.
In the 3-2 victory over Liverpool on Sunday, Arteta made the unusual call to start with four centre-backs.
Arteta masterstroke pays off
White played at right-back which is not out of the ordinary. However, in the absence of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Arteta selected right-footer Takehiro Tomiyasu at left-back instead of Kieran Tierney.
Tomiyasu has played predominantly as a full-back for Arsenal, but was a centre-back by trade at former club Bologna.
The reasoning behind that call was with a view to nullifying Mohamed Salah. The Reds talisman is most dangerous when cutting inside, though doing so meant he dribbled on to Tomiyasu’s stronger right side.
The decision proved a masterstroke with Salah kept quiet throughout. The end result was a visibly frustrated Salah being hooked after 69 minutes.
The call was also another blow to Scotland international Tierney whose Arsenal career seems to have stalled. He’s generally been overlooked at left-back in favour of Zinchenko when both have been available this season.
Now, speaking to Football Insider, pundit Gabriel Agbonlahor claimed he wasn’t surprised Tierney was snubbed.
The ex-Aston Villa forward also claimed Tierney will probably be angling for a move away amid a poignant warning about his gametime.
“Tierney’s got to understand that this isn’t Celtic”
When asked if he was surprised Tierney didn’t start despite Zinchenko being ruled out, Agbonlahor admitted: “Not at all.
“It’s very clever from Arteta, he knows that Salah loves to come inside and Tomiyasu being right footed is there. It worked a treat.
“Also, Tomiyasu looks, to me, quicker than Tierney.
“It worked perfectly. Sometimes, it shows that a manager is not scared to make these decisions.”
Asked whether Tierney will be considering his future, Agbonlahor added: “He probably will be.
“But if you are someone who is always injured, you can’t just come back from injury and expect to go straight back in.
“Tomiyasu has probably been pushing for a start and training well so it makes sense.
“Tierney’s got to understand that this isn’t Celtic now, this is the Premier League and if you’re not bang at it, you’re not going to start.”
Arsenal must not lose Tierney
While it’s true to say Tierney doesn’t appear as vital as he once was, losing him would still constitute a bitter blow.
Arsenal are quietly constructing a deep squad that boasts quality on the bench and in the reserves.
What’s more, they look a shoe-in for a top four finish. As such, they’ll need suitable strength in depth when competing in the UCL next season.
While Tierney hasn’t put his best foot forward of late, he can be one of the league’s most destructive left-backs when fit and firing.
Losing him is simply not an option Arteta will wish to consider.