Arsenal tactics – Surely Arsenal needs to find a place for Tierney to play sometimes?

The full-back conundrum. by Ben Dungate
I am going to credit Arteta with shaping the way we now see many teams operating in the Premier League. Zinchenko’s role, nominally left-back but drifting into the middle to partner Thomas Partey when in possession, seems to have inspired many managers to try something similar this season.
We have seen high profile managers such as Pep and Ten Hag trying to force-fit this style into their team to varying degrees of success. Trying to play this way has seen the downfall of Joao Cancelo, last season’s star player, at Man City.

While on the other side of Manchester we have witnessed Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia drifting into a midfield role at points during their games. Many have tried to make this work, but I feel confident in saying only Arsenal have made it look good.

That said, it has come at a cost. Zinchenko, whilst being a fabulous footballer and intense on-field leader, isn’t quite as good when it comes to defending, and this has lead to him being caught out a few times, most recently at Aston Villa.
Fortunately on that occasion we weren’t punished in the points column but it hasn’t and won’t always be the case. The other great cost to playing this way is to Kieran Tierney’s happiness and long-term future at the club.
I will go on record as stating I believe Tierney to be a superior defender to Zinchenko. However, and this is where the problems lie, Tierney is an old school full back. Rampaging runs down the flank supporting his winger and tracking back to make last ditch tackles in the box. He is a proper player, but maybe a bit too conventional for Mikel.
One thing I have advocated for is to play them both. Allow Tierney to play and do his thing, which will in turn give Martinelli some much needed support with overlapping runs to occupy the opposing defender and let Zinchenko play in midfield where he clearly wants to and feels most comfortable.
Arsenal have the personnel to make a 5-2-3 system similar to that which we saw at Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel work. Remember, Tierney plays on the left side on a 3 man defence for Scotland while Robertson plays as a wing back. Our team could function with both, but it would mean a bit of flexibility from Arteta which I don’t see happening.
Even a nominal 5 man defence with Zinchenko stepping into midfield could work. We will see. It was only last season people were clambering for him to be the next captain. I hope Arteta finds a way for Tierney to play because he is too good to sit on the bench.
Ben Dungate

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Tags tierney Zinchenko


  1. We sit top of the league with Zinchenko in the team ,why would you want to change the system .
    Makes no sense to me .

    1. The left side of the attack has not been strong with zinny and xhaka isolating our left wingers so why not a change

      1. Like I said ..because we sit top of the league .
        Do you want to see Tierney play just to see him whip in the endless balls that no one gets on the end of ,we saw it last season and the season before ,the system now works why change it .

        1. Yes, he has been in the team this season and we won matches too. So should zinny be in the team while drifting to midfield and assolating the Wengers?
          Both Tierney and zinny are good players and are capable of playing in this team they both have there weakness and strength don’t come here and sound like we have not won games this season with Tierney

    2. If we do not play Tierney, we cannot sell him to recoup his price. why not play with 7-8 changes in Europa League and make it a permanent fixture for players like Holding, Kiwior, Tierney, Tomiyasu, Vieira, Nelson, ESR with Trossard as striker/false 9?

      1. Because we want to win the Europa League, which will then mean we will be one of the top seeds in next year’s Champions League.

  2. The last time I saw Tierney played as an inverted LB, he seemed to have improved in that role. I believe he’ll be a starter again, if Zinchenko gets injured or is underperforming

    In the meantime, I’d like to see Tierney play as a conventional LW in the second half of the games, to replace Trossard or Martinelli if we can’t score in the first seventy minutes. I bet this tactic will confuse the opposition

    1. Please confirm when Tierney has ever played as an inverted left back, because as far as I’ve seen he has always played as a conventional left back? Also, he is so one footed, that is the only way he can play, imho.

          1. When we played against Oxford and Man City in FA Cup

            Because he showed better distribution and positioning skills in the inverted LB position, as compared to his performance when he played the role for the first time

  3. While Tierney is a better defender than zinchenko, he’s no Ashley Cole. He has far better positional sense and greater physical presence, but he’s not a brilliant defender imo (he’s not bad either, mind). I can think of plenty of games where he’s struggled, usually against a strong dribbler.
    It’s his energy to run to both ends of the pitch that stands out, and he’s a good crosser. However, that’s not how we play atm, which is why he’s not been in the side.

    The way I see it, this team has been successful with 2 “cohorts” of players on either side of the pitch – White-Odegaard-Saka on the right, and zinchenko-Xhaka-Martinelli on the left. These cohorts were showing great understanding of each other’s movements etc, both offensively and defensively, and were the engine of the side. Partey’s role was to keep everything tidy in the congested midfield zones, and Jesus knitted everything together in the congested areas around the box. I think that’s really why everything didn’t fall apart when jesus got injured – our engine was still intact.
    Just recently, the zinchenko-Xhaka-martinelli cohort hasn’t been operating at full capacity – the cause of that is not fully clear because each of them has been playing below the standards they’d set earlier in the season – many want to blame zinchenko for this, but I’m not sure it’s that simple… Perhaps there is an argument for bringing Tierney in and adjusting the way the team operates, but i think that’s easier said than done. I’m sure it is in arteta’s thinking but I suspect he’s not keen on changing a winning formula…
    I would not be surprised to see Tierney moving on in the summer to be honest – I’m just not sure he fits in with the way we want to play. Hope I’m wrong there and we find a place for him.

      1. Because we want to win the Europa League, which will then mean we will be one of the top seeds in next year’s Champions League.

    1. I’d say Jesus had a fairly free and wide-ranging role. In a sense he (and Partey) knitted the cohorts together.

    2. Jesus used to fall to left wing more often than right and that helped the left side group, which is missing now

      1. Agree Jesus and Martenelli were on same wave length, he isnthe missing piece.

        I to see more of Tiernay though as the left side does not seem to operating effectively and maybe a change is needed.

    3. Davi, I agree. Tierney will leave if given no opportunities to a club that better suits his style of play. Injuries at Arsenal early on disrupted his chance to lock down a place. Once on the outer it is difficult to break back in, particularly if the defense is holding up. My concern is Arteta only seems to rotate when forced by injuries, a worry with a young team.

  4. U want to change wining team bcos u want to make someone happy?
    Pls go and form ur team with ur coaching experience we will sell Tierney to you, so u can make him happy

    1. I didn’t say we should change the way we play, I simply offered an opinion. Isn’t that the point of this forum? To inspire discussion amongst fans of the same team. I’d like to keep Tierney at the club but I suspect he will go, and I merely offered some thoughts on how he could be incorporated. And you don’t know me or what qualifications I have, so be more selective of your words in future and dial back the aggression. We all support the same team. I don’t understand why Arsenal ‘fans’ are so toxic towards one another.

    2. This is the problem we have at arsenal so Tierney is now poor and doesn’t fit the system, mind you we have won games too with Tierney this season, if zinny get injured or need rest you will expect him to them become good out of the blue, Tierney is one of our most reliable players at a time most here wanted him to be our captain, please save me some slack Tierney is good enough to be getting more minutes than he is contently getting, zinny may be better but Tierney is good enough to rotate him and give him rest in some games that’s what other teams do, you don’t call up players only when there is injury or when players are out of form… Starting Tierney in some games will Even make us less predictable

    3. Savage, Arsenal has a “squad” of which Tierney is a member. Isn’t it rational to fully utilize the squad to allow players to recover from niggling injuries or resist fatigue?

  5. One thing for sure.If he decided to leave Arsenal, a number of higher end Premier League sides would be keen to bring him on board due to the fact that he is one of the top left backs around.Of course have we considered the impact of an injury to Zinchenko who is a fine central midfielder but an average left back? Who would take over in the absence of Tierney.The Portugese lad on loan to Marseilles who cannot defend and is totally lacking in positional sense?

    1. I’m not sure Arsenal would want to sell him to a competitor and he’s too good for a mid-tier club.

      Your point re Zinchenko’s replacement is important – we’ve used Tomi there occasionally but that’s seemed to be a tactical solution such as to stop people who tend to cut inside – I’m not convinced that’s an option for a long-term replacement.

      Are there many players who can play the LB style Arteta likes – or who could adapt to it quickly?

      Tierney’s absence may be due to him not adapting, or possibly just not having it in his make-up to adapt to playing in midfield some of the time.

  6. Tierney is a batter prayer than Zinchenko in terms of defending and he deserve some minute if not let him go Tierney so too good for the bench he our best left back for the pass four years.

  7. Sorry to spoil the party, but there are distinct signs that the “system” originally devised by Pep and used by his one time assistant, is tray by at the edges in terms of us conceding goals.The system has put a lot of strain on Gabriel who effectively covers for Zinchenko when he moves into the midfield area.The gap between Gabriel and Saliba has widened recently as opponents have caught on to the space and exploited it.Further up the pitch Martinelli has suffered as neither Zinchenko nor the struggling Xhaka have pace to run and divert defenders.The cracks are there, and Brendan Rogers, you can be sure ,will be working on how he can take advantage of these weaknesses prior to the Leicester game at the weekend.Having watched the Leicester Man Utd match,the away side dictated much of the play in the first half and ought to have been 2 up before Rashford scored.Man Utd were also extremely fortunate that the referee and VAR officials missed a cast iron red card tackle by Sabitzer on a Leicester centre back. The Austrian was not even booked when he ought to have been sent off.Did anyone else see the incident or am I dreaming?

    1. Excellent observations Grandad in relation to the gap between Gabriel and Saliba that had create defensing problems plus the Martinelli lacking of support.All this is consequence of the change of formation.But Arteta will find a solution.

    2. Grandad, I did notice that in the 2nd half at Villa, that when Gabriel went out wide Zinchenko then dropped in to cover him.

    3. Grandad, I think we all and you yourself KNOW that you were not dreaming. That was a red card lunge, disgracefully not given, all day long!

  8. So if you are bringing in Tieney to “make him happy” won’t you have to remove someone for him and thereby ‘making the person unhappy’.
    What I expect Arteta to do his sometimes make one/two changes to the starting lineup to recharge those wearing out and ensure others are match fit.
    He refused to do that until players like Martinelli & White wore out. He better learn from that and do same to others too before they all break down simultaneously and we would expect the backups (who aren’t match fit) to perform magic

  9. Tierney has already played 25 games this season, admittedly mainly as sub, but we have managed to keep him fit, something he has rarely managed to do in the last three seasons. He will get more games in the run in. I do not see a problem here

  10. The article is to the point. Arteta must find a way to integrate both Tierney and Zinchenko in the team because both have varying skillsets which are very important to the team. Tierney is a great defender and can do overlapping runs on the left supporting Martinelli/Trossard whil Zinchenko will be great in the midfield and that is where he really wants to play. Zinchenko can play in place of Xhaka and we can have both him and Tiernye on the field.

  11. I agree. But one player’s feeling over the team’s performance is not the recipe for success. However, Tierney will play against the bottom half team and Europa competition. And perhaps if Arteta demand White to play as wingback then Tierney is needed to form the back 3. We need Zinchenko for his ability to control the midfield and for his sheer will to win. It’s a positive headache for every manager. No need for meltdowns.

  12. Xhaka is clearly feeling the effects of an arduous World Cup and has started virtually every League match this season.Not surprisingly, his contribution has waned during the past 3/4 matches and he needs a break.The simple solution is to play Zinchenko at left central midfield where he always operates for the Ukraine and to bring in Tierney as a conventional left back.This will relieve the pressure on Gabriel and create more space for Martinelli or whoever is playing on the left wing.We have started to leak too many soft goals recently, and we will not win the EPL if we continue to do so.

  13. Michael Arteta needs to be brave and play Ben White as central midfielder and play Tierney at either left or right back, the cover will be balanced, and B W is good in going forward.

  14. I believe our defending looks a little suspect lately because White is playing higher up the pitch to entertain Saka and Odegaard. Earlier in the season he was always at the ready to fill in as a third CB when Zinchenko roamed forward, but Saka and Ode are being treated with markers/numbers so White is needed upfield. Also, Partey carrying a knock before missing out is a blow. When White Saliba and Gabriel are in a three along with Partey covering, that gives Zinchenko license to roam but having only two back there is not sufficient cover on quick breaks. White also canvassed the deep midfield position at times. With White and Zinny high up the pitch and Partey missing, we see that we can be got at

    1. White will “entertain” them then! Exactly how will he do that; tell jokes, dance or sing perhaps!!

      I would not call overlapping to be “entertaining” them personally, but each to their own way of writing , however incorrect it may be!

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