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Arsenal are reportedly edging closer to signing Ajax defender Jurrien Timber, with the Gunners reported to have submitted a second bid for the Dutchman in the region of €45/48m. The deal would be a strong one for Mikel Arteta’s side, after falling agonisingly short of Manchester City last season in the run in to the Premier League title, after suffering defensive injuries.
Timber has been a standout player for Ajax after graduating from the academy in 2020, making a total of 85 Eredivisie appearances so far in his career. The 22-year-old started every league game for de Godenzonen last campaign, in a year that saw them finish third in the table.
On the back of a successful season at the Emirates, it’s difficult to imagine the defence modelled in any way different to how Arteta selected his favoured back four, however the attributes that Timber could offer springs debate to his suitability in the budding squad.
Deployed predominantly at centre-back, the versatile defender can be equipped as right-back too, giving the Spaniard added options in defence, let’s take a look at how Arsenal could line up with the Ajax sensation.
Timber to replace Ben White
As reported by journalist Sam Dean, Arsenal have been planning to add another ‘Zinchenko-type’ player to the squad, which Timber could have the capabilities to achieve.
Arsenal have been looking to sign a versatile right-back who can tuck into midfield and Jurrien Timber has been top of their list for weeks (opening offer revealed by @David_Ornstein). Key part of their squad planning has been to add a Zinchenko-type player on the other side.
— Sam Dean (@SamJDean) June 19, 2023
While Ben White has been magnificent at right-back, the 22-year-old has the quality to mirror the Ukrainian’s inverted full-back style of play, as shown by his progressive numbers provided by FBref.
Arteta could load his side with two offensively competent full-backs that have an eye for fulfilling defensive duties. White’s performances last season don’t warrant him to lose his place in the squad, however introducing Timber could take Arsenal that one step closer to decreasing the gap between themselves and Manchester City.
Timber to support Bukayo Saka
Timber excels in progressive play which could be an integral strength if Arteta opts to play him at right-back. Bukayo Saka topped the charts in the Premier League last season in terms of how many progressive passes he received on average per 90, identifying him as a player that is always in a position to play the ball to up field.
The 21-year-old could flourish in playing ahead of the Dutchman, who as indicated statistically above is a competent passer of the ball, and a player that has the capabilities to pick and play a progressive pass from defence.
Being unleashed on the right-flank would not necessarily present less of an outlet to Saka, with the Ajax sensation possessing the quality of playing the ball from central defence in a way similar to William Saliba. The Englishman suffered a notable dip in performance following the Frenchman’s injury, as highlighted by Sky Sports in a graphic that indicated the work Saliba does in dispatching the ball.
Luckily for Saka, Timber has similar attributes to Arsenal’s favoured centre-back, giving him the potential for an increased outlet beyond just the Frenchman’s efforts.
Timber in a back three
An area that could be explored by Arteta is the option to build his defence as a five, with a back three and two progressive wing-backs. The Spaniard has taken a number of tips from his former colleague Pep Guardiola when building his Arsenal side, as highlighted by his decision to have inverted style full-backs in White and Zinchenko.
The Gunners boss could take another trick from the treble winning marvel in playing three at the back, which could be solidified by the introduction of Timber, who could play on the right-side of the trio, partnered by Saliba and the reliable Gabriel Magalhaes. The switch in formation would not limit Arsenal’s exploits going forward, but encourage them, with the ability to allow the likes of White and Zinchenko to have free roam of the flanks with the assurance of having three ball playing monsters at the back.
The opponent away from danger. Last season he made 1.7 interceptions PG, he’s agile enough to step in front of defenders to win the ball and spring his team into a quick counter attack. Very aggressive & hard in a tackle but also knows the right time when to drop and sweep up. pic.twitter.com/2elzXknXyz
— António Mango (@AntonioMango4) November 25, 2022
Timber has predominantly played in central defence for Ajax, while playing exclusively at right-back for the national team, giving him added experience in being able to cover opposing roles in defence. By situating him on the right side of a back three, the 22-year-old could mirror the performances of national teammate Nathan Ake, who has taken the same role in Guardiola’s back three to an outstanding effect.
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