Arteta hints at back 3
It has been confirmed by Arsenal head coach and manager Mikel Arteta that the Scottish international Kieran Tierney has suffered an injury serious enough to keep him out of play for possibly up to 6 weeks.
Arteta was asked if Tierney’s absence could see Arsenal return to playing with a back 3 and responded with a seemingly open mind to the idea.
“The team has to have the flexibility to adjust when it’s needed,” Arteta said. “Sometimes because of what the opposition is doing and sometimes just to adapt the quality of the players that we have.
“Sometimes because opponents cannot just predict what we are going to do. So there are different ways of doing that and we have to be flexible.”
Being flexible may mean the possibility of Bukayo Saka playing in a left-wing back role. Hector Bellerin could be recalled to play as a right-wing back. The Spaniard hasn’t been in regular use with Calum Chambers preferred for his defensive qualities.
Who is Joel Lopez?
Arsenal released images of their training sessions ahead of the match against Slavia Prague on Thursday which revealed the inclusion of youth team left-back Joel Lopez.
— Z (@ZRAFC) April 7, 2021
101 have produced a player profile on the former Barcelona full-back including expert insight from Arsenal youth assessment site Next Generation Arsenal (NGA).
Within it, NGA speaks of how the 19-year-old still has much to learn and show but has promise.
“Is he ready? His performances in the U23s this season have seen some adversity but also some hopeful displays. The biggest issue Joel faced was finding some consistency, he’s struggled with injuries and the physical side of the game in general,” says NGA.
Joel Lopez signing his contract as a first year scholar. Follows the likes of Fabregas and Bellerin in moving to Arsenal from Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/KudoLMMGqI
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) August 23, 2018
“In terms of technical ability, his strengths are clear. He’s always graceful in possession and can move well with the ball at pace. The Spaniard is always keen to get forward and make an impact in the final third and he’s shown quality in his final ball.
“Defending does not always come easy to the 18-year-old. Positioning and 1-1 duels have often seen Lopez leaving a lot to be desired. It’s clear he needs more experience in the PL2 to further his development, it would be a big risk to play him in the first team currently, but one that could go either way.”
Whilst it makes sense for Lopez to be prepared for an emergency call up, as NGA points out, he is still very raw and it would be a huge risk to throw him in at such a pivotal stage of the season for Arsenal.
The likelihood is that Arsenal will either persist with the unorthodox choice of Cedric who has had some good performances earning a recall to the Portuguese national side, or to switch to the aforementioned back three.