Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta should consider dropping one of his favourites ahead of the final three games of the season. Oleksandr Zinchenko struggled during the win over Newcastle on Sunday and Kieran Tierney impressed in a cameo off the bench to send a message to his manager.
Zinchenko is without a doubt one of the first names on the team sheet for Arteta. The Spaniard targeted the Ukraine star last summer having previously worked with him at Manchester City.
Zinchenko has changed the way Arsenal play. His inverted left-back role has played a big part in their success this season.
The Ukraine star’s experience of winning four Premier League titles at City has also been a massive influence. He told Arsenal players in pre-season that they can win the title this term – an opinion not shared by the majority.
But Zinchenko is currently going through a rough patch on the pitch. He is still getting into familiar positions on the ball and is still having an impact in that regard.
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However, defensively there are concerns. Zinchenko is naturally a midfielder and an attacking one at that. Pep Guardiola converted him into a left-back but he still lacks some key attributes when his team is on the back foot.
Zinchenko is naturally often found out of position due to his inverted role but it has become an issue of late for Arsenal. The 26-year-old was at fault for Liverpool’s late equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Anfield last month after being nutmegged by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Zinchenko is used to playing in a team that has dominated the opposition. That has allowed him to do what he does best by drifting into midfield.
Arsenal have dominated many teams this season but in the crunch stages of the campaign, they have been found wanting at times defensively, especially in the absence of William Saliba. Having a left-back who is so often out of position exposes a weakened back-line.
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Arsenal got away with it on Sunday. Newcastle easily could have scored two or three goals on the day but for some poor finishing and great saves by Aaron Ramsdale.
Arteta noticed Zinchenko struggling and brought on Tierney. The Scot was almost faultless for the 35 or so minutes he was on the pitch.
Tierney’s first instincts are to defend. He more often than not plays as a left-sided centre-back for his country.
Tierney has lost his spot under Arteta largely because he does not feel he can contribute on the ball as much as Zinchenko. That is the case but form must come into Arteta’s thinking too.
Brighton are next up for Arsenal on Sunday, a team capable of causing plenty of issues at a ground they have had success at in the past. Arteta knows victory is a necessity and the time has come for him to leave out one of his favourites.
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