Arsenal travel to Selhurst Park tomorrow to face Crystal Palace in what promises to be a tough encounter, and Mikel Arteta has some decisions to make.
The devastating loss of Jurrien Timber to injury means that changes will need to be made from the side which beat Nottingham Forest last week, and there now remains a dilemma over who could start at left-back.
Timber started the last game, with Takehiro Tomiyasu replacing him following his injury. Jakub Kiwior was an unused substitute, whilst Kieran Tierney and Oleksandr Zinchenko were absent from the squad.
Zinchenko has not been seen at all since picking up an injury at the back end of last season, but returned to full training recently, and even played in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Luton Town earlier this week.
Given that he is now available, Arteta must pick him for the Crystal Palace game, ahead of Tierney, Tomiyasu or Kiwior.
Zinchenko the key away from home
Arsenal were impressive in away games last season, with victories against Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur particularly standing out, and Zinchenko was a huge factor in all of these wins.
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His role as an inverted left-back sees him often push up into midfield, and whilst this can lead to less defensive security, it gives Arsenal additional control in tough away games.
Arsenal have struggled at Selhurst Park in recent years, and given the possibility of a high-intensity game under the floodlights, extra composure and numerical superiority in the middle will be key to securing a victory, and without Timber available, it is now imperative that Zinchenko should start.
Even if he is not ready to play for the entire 90 minutes, the Ukranian, who was described as “brilliant” following Arsenal’s victory away at Spurs last season, could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Palace will be a tough test for the Gunners, and it is a game in which experience and calmness will be needed to settle any nerves. Zinchenko now needs to make his return to give Arsenal the best chance of victory.