It’s no secret that Arsenal are in the market for a right-back this summer.
Hector Bellerin looks set to leave after a ten-year stay in north London, while Cedric seems to have slipped down the pecking order and Ainsley Maitland-Niles has admitted he’s open to an exit. Calum Chambers looks likely to stay, but the Gunners are still on the lookout for a player in the position nonetheless.
Unlike in years gone by, recruiting well in the full-back positions is perhaps one of the most important things on Mikel Arteta and Edu‘s transfer to-do list this summer given their tactical significance in the Spaniard’s system.
With this in mind it’s interesting to consider the differing types of player they have been linked with as potential right-back recruits.
With the likes of Chelsea and PSG looking to try and sign Achraf Hakimi it’s probably safe to say Arsenal will struggle to attract the Moroccan from Inter Milan this summer, while Norwich have shown that they are in no mood to be lowballed this summer following their sale of Emi Buendia tp Aston Villa and the Canaries would likely ask for a big fee for Max Aarons.
While they have both played in the same position over the past season, tactically they could not be any more different.
In his reign so far at Arsenal Arteta has been fairly clear in his desire to incorporate both types of full-backs into his style of play.
Over on the left Kieran Tierney has been asked to push very high to get involved in the offensive part of play, which he has done so to great effect, creating more chances from open play than any other player this season.
Meanwhile on the right Arteta has preferred having a full-back who looks to move inwards to play more centrally when the Gunners are in possession. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was favoured in this role early on but after he showed a reluctance to do it despite seeming to be a natural fit, Bellerin was asked to take over.
The purpose of this has been to ensure the Pep Guardiola-esque 2-3-5 set up that Arteta likes to have his team set up in when they have the ball.
The two is made up of the two centre-backs, while one of the full backs moves central to make up the midfield three alongside the two sitting players. Meanwhile, the opposite wide defender moves up into attack to create a five man offensive line tasked with breaking down the opposition defence.
The effectiveness of Tierney on this left hand side means that it is often the left-back who pushes up for Arsenal, meaning that they are heavily focused on this side of the pitch as a result.
While the Scot is a real threat in this area, the Gunners’ tendency to always go left does make them somewhat predictable and easier to defend against as a result.
Having a full-back capable of carrying an equally dangerous offensive presence over on the right would help fix this and perhaps explains the links to Celik, who has been crucial in helping Lille topple the might of PSG en route to the Ligue 1 title this season.
However, having two equally matched offensive full-backs would potentially damage the balance of the 2-3-5 set up that Arteta holds so dear.
With this in mind the links to Adams also appear to make sense.
The American international started life as a central midfielder and has only recently been converted into a wing-back/full-back by Julian Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig.
He is technically gifted enough to come central and join in with the midfield build-up play in the style of an ‘inverted full-back’ and also has the athleticism to move back out wide and support the attack on occasion when the opportunity presents itself.
It is this kind of player that Arteta has been missing since Maitland-Niles effectively stated that he only wanted to play in central midfield going forward, despite originally being included in the line-up at right-back when the Spaniard first took charge in December 2019.
Bellerin tried to do it at times this season, but he is at his best when he is attacking and overlapping the right winger instead.
Ultimately Arteta would probably like to have both Celik and Adams as full-backs within his squad in terms of the variety in tactical profile and options that they offer. With the ability to choose either there would be an unpredictability in how the Gunners would set up on the pitch making them much harder to defend against.
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Budgetary constraints though, combined with the surplus of right backs in the squad right now mean that only one of these types of player can be chosen.
It’s also worth remember that until Bellerin leaves then it’s unlikely that a new right back will be brought in to the Emirates.
As Arteta seeks to use the extra time on the training ground afforded by a lack of European football for the first time in 25 years to stamp his footballing ideology onto this Arsenal squad, it will be interesting to see the profile of player that he ultimately ends up going for.