How Arsenal could line up without William Saliba

Bad news, Arsenal fans. William Saliba’s back injury looks to be worse than first feared.

Don’t panic just yet, though. Mikel Arteta has insisted he is ‘very hopeful’ he will be back before the end of the season. What a reassuring timeline that is.

With the Gunners eight points clear of Manchester City in the Premier League table, these last couple of months could be about Arsenal simply outlasting the champions at the top of the standings.

With Saliba on the treatment table, how will Arteta’s side line up to hold the fort? They have a few options…


Rob HoldingRob Holding

Holding has a big role to play / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Potential backline: White, Holding, Gabriel, Zinchenko

This would be the simplest scenario, of course.

Rob Holding has again proved a valuable deputy to the Arsenal ranks, but the image of him completely crumbling in last season’s crunch clash at Tottenham still lingers in the memory.

He showed no signs of rustiness after being brought into the backline against Crystal Palace before the international break, but Arsenal have to travel to Liverpool, Man City and Newcastle over the next few weeks. Tougher tests are on the horizon and so scepticism wouldn’t be misplaced.

Jakub KiwiorJakub Kiwior

Kiwior’s chances have been limited since January / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Potential backline: White, Gabriel, Kiwior, Zinchenko

Arsenal’s move to sign Spezia defender Jakub Kiwior in January was swift, with the Gunners bringing in one of Serie A’s highest rated young talents.

A centre-back with World Cup experience, but someone whose lack of game time since heading to north London has looked evident. Kiwior’s two so-so games for Arsenal were followed by a shaky one for Poland over the international break.

There are understandably question marks over his readiness to come into matches with such high stakes, while those who like symmetry will wince at the thought of two left-footed centre-backs starting together.

Potential backline: Partey, White, Gabriel, Zinchenko

Ok, a little bit of reshuffling going on here, but there’s method in the madness.

Thomas Partey played right-back sporadically during his time for Atletico Madrid, including in the Europa League against Arsenal in 2018. Ben White was signed as a centre-back and was a natural fit there alongside Gabriel Magalhaes last season.

It might take a couple of weeks for this backline to gel, but that’s going to be a problem whatever Arteta decides to do now.

Potential backline: Zinchenko, White, Gabriel, Kiwior/Tierney

We can’t rule out Arteta taking a page from Pep Guardiola’s book and going full brain galaxy on us.

Oleksandr Zinchenko plays as an inverted full-back anyway, so swapping sides shouldn’t impact his game too much. Kiwior or Kieran Tierney would instead provide the width.

Look, it’s obviously a little mental, but stranger things have happened.


On this edition of The Chronicles of a Gooner, part of the 90min podcast network, Harry Symeou previews Arsenal’s upcoming Premier League meeting with Leeds United. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast! – ChatGPT autoblogging and content curation plugin for WordPress

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