Mikel Arteta is hopeful that Kieran Tierney can feature for Arsenal again this season after fearing the knee injury sustained against Liverpool was going to be much worse.
The Scotland international is facing up to six weeks on the sidelines after suffering ligament damage meaning he also faces a race against time to be fit for the European Championships in the summer.
In the meantime, Arteta recognises that without natural cover for the left-back, who has been vital to the Gunners attacking output this season, he faces a challenge rejigging the way he sets up his side.
“It doesn’t look like he needs surgery so in that case, the timeframe will be around what you said [4-6 weeks],” said Arteta ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final first leg with Slavia Prague.
“It could have been worse because the action looks quite scary. He’s feeling better and the damage is not that bad. At the end of the day, it’s not the bad news we thought might be waiting for us at the end of the game.
“We’re going to have to go day by day and see how Kieran is feeling, how the knee is reacting. When we get close to playing time and training with the team, depending on where we are and how he’s feeling, we’ll make the decision [as to whether he plays].”
On playing for Scotland, he added: “It will depend how things evolve in the next few weeks. Obviously, he’s so keen to play for us before the end of the season. And he’s extremely keen to represent his country in the Euros.”
In the absence of Sead Kolasinac, who was loaned to Schalke in January, right-footed Cedric Soares and winger Bukayo Saka are the two players most likely to provide cover.
Given Tierney’s influence on our attacking output, the boss admits he may need to change the way his side plays to ensure they still function efficiently in the final third.
“Yeah, we’re going to have to make some adjustments because his qualities are unique and we don’t have anybody to replace these qualities in the squad unless we start to move a lot of pieces.
“Without any time to train that’s a little bit dangerous to do. We’re going to have to find different ways to fulfil that gap and use other things that can be as effective as well.”
Arteta is also well aware that he risks unbalancing his side as they seek a solution.
“That’s the reality,” he said. “You have to change something, you have to find a different way of attacking and at the same time the structure when you are defending and in the transition moments has to be stable and be done by players who are comfortable.
“We knew that that position [left-back] was a weakness around the squad because we didn’t have anybody to replace him [Kieran]. We have to find different solutions.”
Pressed on why the club didn’t recruit a left-back in January, he added: “We could not do anything in that window. We decided to let Kolasinac out on loan and it’s just a decision that we made.”