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Jurrien Timber to Plug the Gap in Arsenal’s Backline?

Ajax Defender Jurrien Timber

Jurrien Timber is on the verge of becoming the latest defensive reinforcement at Arsenal. The fee is reported to be around €50 million. The Ajax centre back is the latest prospect to come through the youth ranks at the club’s impressive academy.

Can Timber Shore up the Gunner’s Defence?

The backline is an area that clearly needed another addition.  Arsenal’s title challenge ended in April. This was due to a run that included conceding 12 goals in just five games. To put this into context this is an average of 2.4 a game. The other 33 games averaged just under 0.94 goals against per game.

Lack of Depth

This coincided with William Saliba picking up a season ending injury. Manchester City and Liverpool away were a part of this run. It was the 3-3 draw with Southampton and 2-2 draw with West Ham which brought the most scrutiny. Rob Holding stepped in and scored in Arsenal’s 4-1 defeat to Man City. However, his performances brought into sharp focus the lack of quality to step in for Saliba. It must be noted that the protection from midfield dipped in these games. However, it seems as though the deal for Declan Rice to join Arsenal may solve this problem. As it could be a record fee for a British footballer, you would certainly hope so.

Impressive Career to Date

Mikel Arteta has identified Timber as the solution to this problem at Arsenal. The recently turned 22-year-old was awarded the Johan Cruyff Trophy for the best Dutch football talent of the year in 2021/22. The centre back has been a mainstay in the Ajax backline for the last two and a half seasons. Comfortable with the ball at his feet and a pass completion success rate of over 90% across every competition he played in last season per whoscored, he should slot in seamlessly to the Gunners’ style of play. Timber can also play at right back as an alternative to Ben White. It must be noted he has rarely been utilised in this position for club or country. An interesting proposition is with Zinchenko playing as an inverted full back he could play on the right of a three alongside Saliba and Gabriel.

Ajax suffered a tough season, finishing third in the Eredivisie. However, Timber managed to put in strong performances for Ajax despite the poor season for the club. Timber has also been part of a side that has won two league titles and played Champions League football in two seasons. This has brought him to the attention of the top sides in Europe once again. Alongside this he has 15 caps for the Netherlands and played a key role in his country’s 2022 World Cup campaign. Manchester United have been credited with an interest in Timber in the recent transfer windows.

Ahead of Saliba?

The main obstacle to Timber making an impact at Arsenal is his preferred position. He is a right sided centre half and would be in direct competition with William Saliba for a starting place. It is unlikely he would surpass the Frenchman soon. For the price quoted, he would be an expensive addition to sit on the bench. As a young player with seemingly unlimited potential, he may have to bide his time to become a regular in his preferred position. Gabriel, a left footed centre half, has tied down the other side of the defence at the heart of the backline. It may take him time to adapt to the demands of the Premier League so patience will be key from Arsenal fans.

Ben White has impressed playing at right back and is a centre half by trade. White would likely be the regular starter come the start of the season either as a makeshift right sided centre half in a back three or as a traditional right back. Ben White does lack the pace of Timber so it will be intriguing to see how the battle for that place in the starting line-up will materialise when the season commences.

High Risk High Reward

Arsenal is signing a player with enormous potential, but we may not see the best of Timber until later in the season or the following season. His mentality to not being the first name on the team sheet will be interesting. It has happened to other players that have left Ajax in recent seasons. Hakim Ziyech, Donny Van De Beek and recently Ryan Gravenberch at Bayern Munich are some examples. It has derailed their careers at times since leaving with so much potential. Timber has performed well despite Ajax’s struggles. That should stand him in good stead for the pressures of the Premier League.

Ajax are receiving a good fee and Arsenal’s depth at the back is significantly being strengthened. It is a good move for both clubs. Timber may be one of the brightest prospects to come out of the Eredivisie in recent times, but time will tell if this is the correct move for his career at this stage.

Featured Image

Ajax Defender Jurrien Timber

Photo credit: Carlo Bruil Fotografie, CC BY 2.0


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