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Arsenal: Saliba-esque teen could replace Jurrien Timber

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Arsenal fans rejoiced when the signing of Jurrien Timber was confirmed last month.

Gone, so they thought, were the days of a certain Rob Holding and his errant defending.

No one can fault the English centre-half’s professionalism and commitment but his displays in the back end of last season arguably cost Mikel Arteta’s men the title.

William Saliba was ruled out with a back injury in what turned out to be pivotal moment in the chase for the Premier League.

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Timber, therefore, was meant to solve that problem, but sadly the Dutchman has been ruled out for an extended period.

When will Jurrien Timber return from injury?

Timber went down with an injury problem in the first half of Arsenal’s opening weekend victory against Nottingham Forest.

It was perhaps a surprise to see him step out for the second period but down he went again shortly after the break before being substituted.

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The severity of his injury was far worse than anyone could have imagined. The 22-year-old suffered an ACL problem and as a result, could miss the next seven to nine months in line with the traditional recovery time for such an injury.

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Who could replace Jurrien Timber at Arsenal?

Fortunately for the Gunners, the transfer window is still open should they wish to replace their impressive young talent.

Full-backs such as Joao Cancelo, Benjamin Pavard and Kyle Walker-Peters have all been linked in recent days, although if Edu and co fancy saving themselves a pretty penny, they could turn to Hale End once more.

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As this Arsenal team have become more and more successful, the chances for academy graduates on which this team were built have become slimmer.

Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe were the pillars of this team as Arteta sunk his teeth into management for the first time but those opportunities simply aren’t there anymore.

Such an eventuality has led to Folarin Balogun’s impending exit and Charlie Patino’s second straight loan.

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However, the door is now ajar in defence for a young prospect to make a name for themselves.

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The most likely candidate in that regard is Reuell Walters.

Who is Reuell Walters?

An 18-year-old centre-back, the teenager really made a name for himself during Arsenal’s run to the FA Youth Cup final last season.

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Jack Wilshere’s men enjoyed a fairytale run to the showpiece event at the Emirates, only to be dispatched 5-1 by West Ham.

Walters, however, stood out despite such a scoreline. He strode out of defence confidently and with great purpose, carrying the ball long distances or pinging balls into space for wingers and wing-backs to run onto.

 

Such a playstyle is in line with the way the aforementioned Saliba and Gabriel play. Indeed, both defenders like to stride forward before playing a measured long pass to feet.

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Of course, the teenager might not be at that standard yet, but Wilshere certainly expects him to have a strong future in the game, reportedly holding the opinion that he could well become just as good as Saliba.

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With Timber being signed and competition for places in a full-back position being fierce, any opportunity for Walters to play looked farfetched. After all, he wasn’t even among the travelling party to the USA for the club’s pre-season tour.

Yet, having appearing for the club during pre-season ahead of the 2022/23 campaign and been in plenty of matchday squads last term, Arteta clearly rates him. Boasting a success rate of 83% chipped passes per game in the EFL Trophy to Holding’s 50%, it’s clear to see why.

This is a player who is bold with his passing and more often than not, the risk pays off. Holding is anything but a clever gamble. Playing him would be a mistake.

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Throwing Walters in as a regular starter in the Premier League is unlikely but the “outstanding prospect” – as dubbed by journalist Layth Yousif – deserves an opportunity to prove he could play second fiddle to Arsenal’s defensive protagonists.

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