Mikel Arteta worked hard in the summer window alongside technical director Edu to strengthen the Arsenal first team and as the winter period began the congestion of fixtures justified their choices.
Ahead of the afternoon’s match with Norwich City, it was confirmed that all top four right-back options for Arsenal had tested positive for Covid-19. Takehiro Tomiyasu, Cedric Soares, Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who have all featured in the full-back role, were unavailable for selection.
However, Mikel Arteta was still prepared thanks to the work conducted in the summer. Ben White slotted into the right-back role with Rob Holding, who also renewed his Arsenal contract in the summer, coming into the right centre-half position.
The decision to spend £50 million on the Brighton defender drew plenty of criticism with the midfield in need of reinforcement. However, the England international has proven a solid addition alongside Gabriel Magalhaes and the pair have made the Gunners backline greatly improved defensively.
Much of the questioning to spend the fee on White spawned from the dilemma surrounding William Saliba. Bought for close to £30 million in the summer of 2019, the Frenchman is yet to play for the club.
Sent on loan to Marseille, Saliba has impressed with his excellent passing and recovery speed in the OM defence.
He, like White, has had to operate in several roles under Jorge Sampaoli during his time in Ligue 1 and the Europa League.
He has played at right-back, rather successfully to as was previously covered by The Arsenal Way. Additionally, Saliba has also played as a sweeper in a back three with two other centre-halves on either side of him.
Arteta’s use of White in the wider role has unlocked possibilities for the Frenchman to join in with the first-team action early upon his return to the club.
White could return to the central position with Saliba playing at right-back or vice versa. Takehiro Tomiyasu’s role in the team however could come into question and the Japanese international has arguably been the best of the defensive unit this season.
Working the structure into a back five. Tomiyasu, whose offensive game has greatly improved, could operate in a right wing-back responsibility. Saliba, White and Gabriel form the central three in any manner of combinations. Kieran Tierney or Nuno Tavares then operating as left-wing back options.
Considering that Arsenal’s defence has characteristically been the greatest area of weakness for the last decade or so, Arteta has been able to build a consistent unit in a relatively short space of time. With a couple more tweaks and the age profiles so young, the Spaniard may have built his dream collection of players at just the right period to see it flourish.
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Source by Football London