Mikel Arteta has revealed how Arsenal are planning to cope without Kieran Tierney.
The 23-year-old limped off injured after a collision with James Milner in the Gunners’ 3-0 defeat to Liverpool and it was confirmed on Wednesday that he is set to miss between four to six weeks of the season after suffering knee ligament damage.
It is a massive blow for Arsenal as Tierney has created more opportunities from open play than anyone else in the squad this season. There is also no orthodox left-back alternative among the playing staff at the Emirates right now after Sead Kolasinac was sent out on loan to Schalke in January.
And speaking ahead of their Europa League quarter-final first leg with Slavia Prague on Thursday, Arteta admitted that his side will have to adapt without the Scot.
“Yes, we’re going to have to make some adjustments because his qualities are unique and we don’t have anybody with his qualities within the squad unless we start to move a lot of pieces. Without any time to train, it is a little bit dangerous to do,” he said.
“But we’re going to have to find different ways to fill that gap and use other things that can be as effective as well.”
Cedric has deputised at left-back at times this season, despite naturally being a right-back, while Bukayo Saka broke into the team last season with an extended run in the position but has excelled at right-wing this campaign.
Arteta added that while playing either out of position would not be ideal, it was a fact that he and his coaching staff were going to have to deal with over the coming weeks.
“That’s the reality,” he said. “You have to change something and you have to find a different way of attacking.
“At the same time, the structure when you are defending and in transitional moments has to be stable and has to be done by players that are comfortable doing that.
“We knew that position was a weakness around the squad, because we didn’t have anybody to replace Kieran, and we have to find different solutions.”
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It is not yet clear whether Tierney will be out for the remainder of the season or not, and Arteta remained hesitant to put a time frame on when he expects the Scotland international to make his return to the side.
“I don’t know, we’re going to have to go day by day to see how Kieran is feeling, how he is reacting,” he said.
“When we get close to playing time and training with the team, depending where we are and how he’s feeling, we’ll make a decision.”