Woe be Arsenal. Fans must not only shoulder the shame of a lethargic performance against Liverpool, they must also sit and worry for arguably their best player this season, Kieran Tierney.
Kieran Tierney was injured in the game against the Reds and it has since been claimed that there is a sense of trepidation about how long the 23-year-old will spend on the sidelines. Those at the club are distressed at the fact that the young left-back may be out for a few weeks, and certainly both legs of the Europa League quarter-final tie with Slavia Prague.
The Scottish defender has been a shining light for Arsenal both on and off the pitch. In training he is fully committed, sliding into tackles and playing with an intensity that has often been missing at the club. During games he is a true leader, shouting orders and marshalling his fellow defense… and those in front. He will be sorely missed while he recovers.
Who should move into the left-back spot is now the elephant in the room. Cedric Soares has played there whenever Tierney has been injured this season, but with the way Arsenal play, with the full-back overlapping and encouraging the forward to come inside into the half-spaces, a naturally left-footed defender is needed. That leaves only one option: Bukayo Saka.
Arsenal’s answer to Kieran Tierney injury is Bukayo Saka as Europa League quarter-final with Slavia Prague awaits
The English youngster has truly come into his own during this campaign and has been an offensive focal point for the team. His mix of technique and work rate espouse the values Arteta admires. He also has end product, contributing six goals and assists apiece, and while his absence has also been felt, should he be deemed fit, Arteta should deploy him in Tierney’s stead
A lack of options on the left hand side paints a complicated picture. The fact of the matter is that Saka is the only left footed player who has experience playing in the role, with that being the position the youngster predominantly played when he first broke into the first team, after all.
The options up front, however, are a bit more numerous and diverse. Nicolas Pepe can be stationed there, the likes of Willian and Martin Odegaard can suit up there as well as Emile Smith Rowe who has found his groove at the left prong. Each of the players mentioned offers Arteta something different and depending on his tactical tinkering, each of them can be a viable and effective option.
Saka is an incredible player. Part of what makes him so exceptional is his ability to contribute from anywhere on the pitch, no matter what position he plays. Arteta will be hoping he can continue to contribute as he looks to the match against Slavia Prague in the Europa League.