Arsenal have started the season with promise, but their defence remains a concern.
That could soon all change with defensive trio Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin set to return in the coming weeks.
Holding was probably Arsenal’s best defender up until his unfortunate injury and Emery will be delighted to have the 23-year-old now close to match-fitness. Rob will provide competition for David Luiz, Calum Chambers and Sokratis at the heart of the defence.
Tierney’s arrival is most welcome and whilst we don’t know how he will settle in the Premier League, the young Scotsman displays all the attributes of a successful full-back and one suited to both Arsenal and Emery. Nacho Monreal, now 33, has struggled to be his consistent self over the last 12 months, with the Spaniard clearly now struggling with the fast pace of the Premier League. Arsenal’s other left-back, Sead Kolasinac has offered plenty going forward but is not brilliant defensively. Reports from Scotland suggest Tierney may be a nice mix between the two.
Bellerin’s return is perhaps the most important of all. At the club for six years, Bellerin is now one of the longest standing Gunners in the squad and his experience, even at the young age of 24, will be vital. Last season Arsenal really suffered in his absence with Stephan Lichtsteiner failing to impress and Ainsley Maitland-Niles concentration levels and experience below par, at times. Whilst Maitland-Niles has improved, he is not a natural right back. Bellerin is more solid defensively, with his pace and understanding of the role a key asset in defending.
The Gunners attacking game will also receive a boost from the returns of both Tierney and Bellerin. The flying full-backs offer tonnes of pace going forward and Unai Emery loves to utilise attacking defenders in his tactics. We saw that in the Unai’s first season before Bellerin got injured. The Spanish full-back managed 5 assists in 18 Premier League games last season – a significant amount. If Tierney and Bellerin can both replicate that kind of attacking form, the Gunners will have 20 assists from their full-backs.
With this in mind Bellerin looks a decent pick on Football Index, valued at £0.93 currently.
In contrast, Bellerin’s deputy last season, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, picked up just one Premier League assist in 16 outings.
It’s easy to forget how impactful both Holding and Bellerin were to Emery’s early days at Arsenal and how the club really started to struggle after they lost the duo to injury. Couple their pending returns with Tierney’s addition and Arsenal’s starting eleven is starting to look a lot more balanced.