Arsenal’s slip-up at Southampton has shown Mikel Arteta exact lineup change he must make
Arsenal slumped to their first draw of the season at Southampton, denting their Premier League title chances and also giving Mikel Arteta a clear indication of how to get his team back to winning ways.
As Arsenal grow stronger in numbers and quality, it’s a cold reality for some Gunners players that their time in the starting XI will soon be up.
After 16 games, of which Arsenal have failed to win just two, Mikel Arteta is finding more and more out about his team, who’d won their last eight. On Sunday, the Gunners slumped to their first draw of the season, as they were held by Southampton at St Mary’s.
Arteta’s side looked sapped of energy in the closing stages following a 65th-minute equaliser by Stuart Armstrong, save for one player: Kieran Tierney. Brought on as a substitute for the fourth Premier League game running, the Scottish left-back injected guile and direction to his side, almost salvaging them a draw.
Tierney’s pace on the left flank – as it so often does – conjured up a chance for Martin Odegaard, who slammed home a left-footed finish which looked to have won Arsenal the game in the dying embers. Unfortunately for them, the ball had narrowly run out of play before Tierney delivered his cut-back, but it was a sign of how much more dangerous the Gunners can be with him on the pitch.
In his place for the aforementioned four league matches has been Takehiro Tomiyasu, who since his arrival from Bologna last August, has been a solid servant to Arteta’s team. But until their seventh fixture, the 23-year-old had been restricted to brief cameos from the bench, with either Tierney or new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko getting the nod at left-back.
Arteta evidently believed that he could upgrade Tomiyasu this season having made the right-back spot his own last term on his preferred flank. Now with Benjamin White excelling there – demonstrated by his superb assist for Granit Xhaka at St Mary’s – there are few who’d argue Tomiyasu’s case to start over Tierney or White when Nottingham Forest come to the Emirates this Sunday.
Arteta can keep Tomiyasu ticking over in the Europa League, with Arsenal already through to the knockout stages ahead of a trip to PSV Eindhoven on Thursday. As for Tierney, the time is now for the ex- Celtic star to remind the Gunners what they’ve been missing.
While he may not be as defensively sound as the sturdy Japan international, Tierney’s attacking ability trumps his teammate, and a fixture like Forest at home calls for a forward-thinking team selection. But if the 25-year-old still doesn’t get his chance, former Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell has already told him exactly what to do.
“As a player, you’ve got to wait for your opportunity, and the one thing that Kieran Tierney has got to worry about is that Tomiyasu has played the last two league games ahead of him on that left-hand side,” Campbell told Ladbrokes. “I could understand it against Liverpool; that decision made sense to me because the right-footed left-back really helped in keeping Mohamed Salah quiet and stopped him from coming inside as he so often does.”
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