Jurrien Timber given green light for left-back fight as Arsenal weekend MVP welcomes the battle


Oleksandr Zinchenko has not had a guaranteed place in Mikel Arteta’s team this season. However, despite the inconsistency in his starts, he returned to the starting eleven for the visit of Burnley to put in quite the performance.

Of course, his outstanding strike to give the Gunners their third of the afternoon and a two-goal lead will be what resonates the most in people’s minds. However, for those perhaps watching the Ukrainian international more specifically would have noticed his overall game being invaluable for Mikel Arteta’s side.

Squawka represented his match in numbers with the most touches, 116, most passes into the final third (45), most entries into the final third (17), most duels won (14), most aerial duels won (seven), and most tackles (five). It is the defensive stats which should garner the most praise considering Zinchenko has faced scrutiny for this side of his game.

Of the 12 Premier League games so far, Zinchenko has started seven of them. There have been four different players to play in the role this season including Takehiro Tomiyasu, Jakub Kiwior and Jurrien Timber.

Speaking to reporters after the game, I asked Zinchenko for football.london how he has found the competition in the position, especially considering Tomiyasu has just picked up the club's Player of the Month award for October. He appeared to relish it and offer up an interesting view from a player whose minutes have lessened due to the presence of other options for Arteta to consider.

"We have an amazing squad and good competition in every single position," he said. "I think it is definitely a positive sign."

READ MORE: What Oleksandr Zinchenko did to Vincent Kompany after scoring Arsenal third against Burnley

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If Zinchenko is welcoming this as a positive for the club then the currently injured Timber should certainly be reading these comments with interest. Although Timber played exclusively at centre-half in the Eredivisie last season for Ajax, Arteta has seen the Dutch international as anything but a central defensive figure.

Pre-season saw Timber play on either flank in the Community Shield against Manchester City and the opening Premier League clash with Nottingham Forest in which he sadly suffered a serious knee injury ruling him out for the long term. Projections are that March to May will be the most likely period to return for a knee injury of this type, but when he does eventually make a comeback be it this season or the next, Zinchenko will have even more competition.

Arteta has proven with signings like David Raya that he is not married to the idea of the original players that he brought in being the assured long-term starters and Aaron Ramsdale is learning that the hard way. Could Zinchenko be next with Timber brought in during the same summer as the Spanish goalkeeper?

If he is, then it wouldn't be too surprising to see his former Man City teammate turned Arsenal colleague Gabriel Jesus facing a similar fate as the striker. Centre-forward also continues to be a clear area of interest for the club to strengthen.

As Zinchenko says, it is a positive sign because injuries have not been kind to him nor plenty of his teammates. Timber is on a list which features the aforementioned Jesus, Thomas Partey, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard with the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli also missing games this season.

I asked Mikel Arteta ahead of the game with Sevilla in the Champions League about the challenge that having two or more top players in every position. He was quick to point out this very benefit of when these issues can arise.

"Well I think this squad availability is really important to allow you to do those changes," he said. "At the moment we have five or six injuries and then obviously the capacity to rotate in certain moments, even in the cups, is more limited so when you have 22 outfield players fit and available it's easier; at the moment it is a bit trickier."

Arteta has been vocal on the idea of extending the squad to larger than 25 players and it is understandable as to why. Plenty of Arsenal supporters agree that the side still needs more reinforcements in January however at present there’s simply no space to put them.

The only obvious potential sale is Cedric Soares and whilst some might shout other names, Arteta has handed new deals to the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson so a significant fee would be needed to move these or others from the squad in the winter. It is when you look at the squad you can see why Arteta is so keen on an extension.

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Mikel Arteta celebrates Arsenal's recent Premier League victory over Manchester City

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