Arsenal left-back Kieran Tierney has been ruled out of action for the rest of the season, after sustaining a knee ligament injury when facing Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday.
In the final minute of the first half, Arsenal fans drew a collective sigh of “here we go again”, as the 23-year-old left back hobbled off the pitch looking worse for wear.
For the Arsenal faithful, it will feel like that as soon as the Scotsman has a solid run of games, it’s only a matter of time before he is side-lined again.
From a personal perspective, Tierney will be relieved that surgery isn’t necessary for his injury – meaning it is likely he will still be in contention for the European Championships in the summer.
With six goal contributions this season, Tierney has proved to be instrumental to what Mikel Arteta is trying to achieve. The absence of the Scot leaves a big void to fill – with the club letting go of Sead Kolasinac, the Scottish defender remains the only left-footed full back at Arsenal.
The 23-year-old has proved himself to be a leader in the dressing room, inspiring his teammates to perform at a higher level. There have even been shouts among Arsenal fans for the young Scot to be named captain once Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leaves the club.
Discussion has taken place within the Arsenal fanbase in regards to who should fill the gap during Tierney’s absence, with supporters divided on the issue.
One option for Arteta is to use Portuguese right-back Cedric Soares – a consistent performer for the Gunners since he signed from Southampton last year.
Cedric seems to be the most popular choice, as he has frequently filled in at left-back in the absence of Tierney.
Soares certainly has the capability to play at left-back, but to provide the right angles and passes, Arteta would surely favour a left-footed player.
Another option that the Spanish coach can consider is using 19-year-old Bukayo Saka, who excelled as a left wing-back for a large portion of the 2019/20 season.
The only issue in playing Saka at left-back is that he can’t play at right-wing at the same time, and his attacking contributions have proved to be game changing for the north London side.
Should Arsenal progress into the late stages of the Europa League, Tierney’s hopes of playing before the end of the season may come to fruition, as he is ruled out for 4-6 weeks.
If the Gunners make the final on the 26th May, he may well make a return to help his teammates qualify for the Champions League next year.
With the Europa League final a long-term goal, only crucial games remain this season for Arteta’s side.
The next two weeks see Arsenal face Sheffield United and Fulham – two games where the Gunners supporters will be expecting three points, but with new injuries straining the squad, it will be difficult to sustain the “consistency” that Arteta so frequently mentions.