Martin Keown was furious with Granit Xhaka‘s performance as a makeshift left-back in Arsenal’s 2-1 loss to Villarreal on Thursday.
The Swiss midfielder has been filling in there in recent weeks following the Scottish defender’s absence with a knee injury.
Tierney is believed to have returned to training this week however, with the manager claiming he was in contention to play on Thursday, before missing out on the squad.
Villarreal’s opening goal of the came from an attack down the right-flank, and that opening had Arsenal on the back foot almost from kick-off, and you could visually see that Xhaka wasn’t comfortable going in for the tackle, and Keown insists that there is only one player who should be starting at left-back this Thursday if Tierney is not ready.
“Granit Xhaka does not deserve to be getting the blame,” he told his column at the DailyMail. “I feel for him. He’s a midfielder being told to play at left back by his manager in Kieran Tierney’s absence.
“Xhaka played well there against Sheffield United, and Arsenal kept their first clean sheet for 13 games. But he has since been left exposed by higher-quality opponents, such as Richarlison for Everton and Samuel Chukwueze for Villarreal. He could now face Newcastle’s in-form Allan Saint-Maximin.
“Let’s not even go into how a club like Arsenal, whose owners wanted them in the closed-shop European Super League, finds itself without a back-up left back.”
“If Tierney is fit, he walks into the team for that all-or-nothing second leg. If not, Saka must play at left back, a position where has excelled previously for club and country.
“If Arteta sticks with 4-2-3-1, Xhaka can then go back alongside Thomas Partey in midfield, where he has been much improved this season.
Would dropping Saka further back have a worse effect on our front line, than it does by having Xhaka play at left-back? Is there no other alternatives for the role?