Mikel Arteta’s fetish for versatility has become clear since taking over as Arsenal boss, and the Spaniard looks set to add another unicorn to his ranks this summer.
The addition of Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City was a watershed moment in Arteta’s project. The Ukrainian’s arrival facilitated the introduction of an inverted full-back to Arteta’s framework and Arsenal, as a result, were able to control and dominate contests last season in a manner we hadn’t previously seen.
Positional flexibility and supreme technical ability are prerequisites for an Arteta defender, and in Jurrien Timber, the Gunners are poised to add a technician whose bound to thrive in north London.
Arsenal are closing in on the Dutchman’s signature, and here’s how the Gunners could line up if they do land Timber.
Zinchenko’s role altered Arsenal’s possession structure to a 3-2-5 last season with the Ukrainian shifting into midfield to join the number six. On the opposite side, Ben White played a more traditional full-back role, but this dynamic could change if Timber was to be deployed at right-back.
While the Dutchman could replicate White’s up-and-down function, Arteta could use Timber as his second inverted full-back and create a 2-3-5 possession structure. The Gunners’ principles would remain the same, but their capacity to control games and overwhelm the opposition in central areas would increase.
By deploying Timber at full-back (he could also fill in for Zinchenko at left-back), White will likely get more minutes at the heart of Arsenal’s defence alongside either William Saliba or Gabriel. Arteta, however, won’t want to disturb this partnership too much next season.
Timber – Saliba – Gabriel – Zinchenko
Timber – White – Saliba – Zinchenko
White – Saliba – Gabriel – Timber
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White’s excellent season in a once unfamiliar full-back role means it’s no guarantee Timber would start at right-back. At the moment, it appears as if the Dutchman is a luxury addition who’d provide stellar cover at multiple positions.
Should the club endure an injury crisis similar to last season, Timber could also fill in at centre-back. While his good work for the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup came as part of a back three, Timber exclusively played in a back four for Ajax last season.
While some may raise questions regarding his height, Lisandro Martinez’s impressive debut Premier League campaign with Man Utd after joining from Ajax must surely ease any fears.
White – Timber – Saliba – Zinchenko
White – Timber – Gabriel – Zinchenko
Tomiyasu – Timber – Saliba/Gabriel – Zinchenko
A midfield reshuffle is expected at the Emirates this summer with Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey potentially departing. Declan Rice is the club’s priority target and he could be Arteta’s long-term #6, while the impending addition of Kai Havertz is an interesting one given his potential to replace Xhaka as Arsenal’s left-sided #8.
Arteta has depth at the base of midfield with Jorginho and Mohamed Elneny still on the club’s books, but Timber could also be utilised in this role should it be deemed necessary. The Dutchman has occasionally performed a midfield role for Ajax over the years, and there’s no doubt that he’s got the skill set to thrive at the base of midfield.
The 22-year-old’s versatility knows no bounds.
Odegaard – Timber – Havertz
Odegaard – Timber – Rice*
*in the event that Rice signs for Arsenal