Keown names the player who should start in Tierney’s absence

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?


Tags Bukayo Saka Martin Keown


  1. Saka at fullback makes most sense to me – it limits him but would be best for the team. Also means Martinelli can step into one of the attacking positions

  2. Yes Saka at left back for me and Martinelli in front of him.
    @Patrick, Keown was not furious with Xhaka’s performance, he was furious at him being asked to play left back when he isn’t one.

  3. Saka at LB while Tierney is hurt is frighteningly obvious. Talking about frightening, Saint-Maximan flying down the wing with only Xhaka between him and our keeper meets my definition

    I’ll say it again, this reflects on Arteta not Xhaka

  4. Playing without natural fullbacks is hurting us badly. It is one of my main issues with Arteta’s tactics. You have 2 decent RB but you choose to play a makeshift one that only ticks the good crossing box for that possition. Also, movin Xhaka to LB weakens or buildup in the midfield and leaves us exposed with his lack of pace. This team is full of decnt CBs both right and left footed, why don’t you play with 3 CBs Holding, Mari, Gabriel, and Bellerin, Saka futher in the pitch. It would be much better than basically playing 4 CBs.

  5. who let Kolasinac go? we can criticize him as much as we want but he did have few good games as left back. he was always horrible in the back three though.

  6. That is pathetic and infuriating at the same time.

    I read the short post 3 times, but Keown simply DOES NOT name the player who should start in Tierney’s absence. Neither did he insist Saka should be playing at LB – as far as these few paragraphs are concerned.

    It is either bullshit clickbait journalism, or maybe Keown did share his views somewhere, but simply wasn’t quoted properly. Nevertheless, it is a big shame on JustArsenal. Pathetic and infuriating.

    1. “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.

      Maybe you should have read it a fourth time

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