Heading into the first game of the Premier League season, Mikel Arteta seems to have one less dilemma to solve – the one which has haunted him all summer.
Following interest from Aston Villa and Brighton, as revealed by football.london on Friday [September 11], the 28-year-old is not expected to travel with the squad to Craven Cottage. As a result, Bernd Leno will take the starting spot to build on an impressive 2019/20 campaign.
Fresh injuries to David Luiz and Sokratis may cause speculation as to whether the side will continue with a back three, but seeing as it’s the system that has been used most in pre-season, veering away from that may come further down the line.
As a result, William Saliba will slot in on the right side, Rob Holding will take the central role and Kieran Tierney will keep his place as the left-sided centre-back. Anticipation may be high for a Gabriel Magalhaes debut but Arteta is aware of the challenges both he and Saliba will face and in need of points early, he may opt for Tierney as the more trusted option.
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“I think it’s going to take him some time to adapt to our way of playing but as well to get adapted to the language, the rhythm, the physicality of the country,” Arteta said on Saliba and Gabriel.
“As well we have to bear in mind that he didn’t play much football last season with all the injuries he had. So, I think it will be a process that we have to be patient, picking the right games with the right environment and trying to grow because he has a really good potential.
“Everyone was saying that we had too many central defenders and it’s a funny case right now that it’s the position we are short at the moment with all the injuries. But I’m hopeful in the next few weeks that situation will resolve and we’ll be in a stronger position.”