Gunner Thoughts

The Ominous Feelings of Outside Back

I am not sure what Arsenal did to anger the god of Arsenal Outside Backs but it’s becoming a real problem. So, hold the séance, draw the pentagrams, and summon what I assume is a multi-headed, hydra of Nigel Winterburn that sprouts extra heads of Lee Dixon and feed it whatever sacrificial lamb we need to, to keep our remaining backs healthy. Is it Raul? Stan Kroenke and every other Kroenke’s firstborn until they are no longer the owners? Prices I may be willing to pay to stop this steady stream of injuries to everyone that plays outside back for Arsenal this year.

After this weekend, Kolasinac finds himself back on the injury list a mere 15 minutes into his return from an ankle injury. Add his multiple injuries to Kieran Tierney’s double hernia recovery and shoulder dislocation, Sokratis who suffered an injury against Olympiacos in one of his two outside back appearances, Bellerin who is back this year after a lengthy ACL tear and been in and out, Calum Chambers who has played there for us, and Cedric Soares who we bought injured (which suddenly makes a lot more sense). Even Bakayo Saka went off injured earlier this month at half time against Burnley. For a position that seems like we have a lot of depth in the club, it is lining itself up to be a potential tough spot.

We are awaiting word from Arsenal what the extent of Kolasinac’s injury is, but I can’t pretend it looks good. After the game, Arteta said he was unsure of the extent of Kolasinac’s injury but added that it didn’t look good. Add that to Arsenal’s post on social media wishing him a speedy recovery and things do not look good.

Assuming Kolasinac is not going to pull a “Mustafi” and somehow be 100% fit the game after a serious looking injury, Arsenal are presented with a potential problem. With Kieran Tierney still in recovery and Kolasinac potentially out with a similar shoulder injury, Arsenal are left with just Bakayo Saka until Tierney is able to make a return. This could be fine, but Saka will need a rest at some point. Saka has been extremely impressive, to say the least, this year as he has amassed 10 assists in all competitions and had the third most tackles on the team in Premier League matches (30) averaging 1.66 tackles per game.

While this is not yet an official problem, the ominous feeling around our outside backs should have Arteta spending a little bit of time planning for the worst. At the very least, he will need a plan for what he intends to do with Kieran Tierney and Saka once both are healthy. Everyone is more than aware that Saka is not a natural left back and his offensive production seems too appealing to not be included in the lineup regularly. Could Saka be the reason that we see Arteta make the move to push Aubameyang into the center to give Saka room on the left wing?

There is merit to both sides of the “move Saka to the winger role” argument. His offensive production proves why he could be a benefit and yet there is an argument for the fact that some of the positions he is producing from are not necessarily the same positions he would find himself in as a winger, which could curb his production.

I don’t envy Arteta with having to manage this situation along with trying to get the team to make a late season run to get back into European competitions next year. Until forced to make a decision we will wish Kolasinac the best and say our prayers to the Winterburn Hydra that he is content to leave young Bakayo injury free.

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