With Oleksandr Zinchenko spending most of pre-season in the treatment room nursing the calf injury that ruled him out at the tail-end of last season, there’s added attention on new signing Jurrien Timber and his ability to replicate the Ukrainian’s abilities as an inverted full-back.
The Holland international played most of his football as a right-back or right-sided centre-back during his time at Ajax but in Arsenal’s final two pre-season friendlies, Mikel Arteta has been testing him at left-back.
The position may be unfamiliar to the 22-year-old but he’s shown he has the underlying qualities to operate in midfield and progress the play.
Zinchenko, for one, is impressed. When it was put to the former City player that Timber is a similar type of player, he told the official Arsenal programme:
“Maybe he is, but maybe better than me. I’m sure he is 100 per cent going to show us what he can do, and will really help us.
“I do know about him because I watched him and followed the way he played at Ajax. Also, I played against him for the national team so I know about him as a player, what amazing qualities he has, and now I know him off the pitch. He’s a great guy, another incredible signing for Arsenal who will help us a lot.”
Certainly having Zinchenko as a mentor will help Timber. In May, the Ukraine international reflected on what is necessary to fulfil a role that requires constant attention to detail.
“You have to look at your opponent, which is obviously my right winger, and see where he stays and who he is marking. Then you need to find the space and try to play forward,” he told Arsenal.com.
He added: “The main thing when you’re in central midfield is to know what’s going on behind your back, and you need to know what you’re doing with the ball before you receive it. That’s why I try to move my neck as much and as often as I can and just analyse what’s going on behind me and what’s going on on the pitch.
“A lot of managers used to teach me that the vision of a football player is that if you see the pitch [narrow], you are in the second league. If you see the pitch [wider], it’s the first league, and then [wider again] is Premier League, and [as wide as possible] it’s Champions League, so you need to see the whole picture.”
Timber isn’t the only player trying to learn the role. Jakub Kiwior looked decent giving it a try when he featured against Nurnberg in July and Kieran Tierney has been doing his best to get to grips with it.
Having spent his formative years as a traditional full-back used to darting up and down the touchline, he admits it’s been a bit of a head-scratcher at times.
“Alex is the prime example of how to do it so if you’re going to learn off anyone, it would be Zinchenko,” he told The Athletic during Arsenal’s tour of the USA.
“I’ve been learning off him and asking him questions but there are so many different ways of playing.
“It’s all learning as it was genuinely all new to me. I had never played in the centre of the park before. It wasn’t somewhere I ventured in very often before, so it makes you a better player learning.”