Arsenal have signed Zinchenko, Jesus and Vieira with flexibility in mind

Almost 20,000 people were in Exploria Stadium to watch arsenal against Orlando City by three to a goal.

As excited as the Florida fans seemed about what was happening on the field, there was one face in the crowd that drew attention. High up in the hospitality seats, next to technical director Edu, was Arsenal’s next addition: Oleksandr Zinchenko.

That Deal for Manchester City player is now effectively complete, there are still some formalities to be done. “He’s an exceptional footballer and someone who will give this dressing room a competitive advantage,” confirmed coach Mikel Arteta in his post-match press conference.

Zinchenko’s upcoming arrival has raised questions. How does Arteta intend to use it? Will he play at left-back or in central midfield?

“He can play in both,” said Arteta. “He was a natural No. 10 early in his career and we (City, during his time as an assistant there) made him into a left-back who can do a lot of things that we want in the way we play.” Zinchenko doesn’t just fill a Gap in squad – he fills two.

It’s a recurring theme with Arsenal’s recent acquisitions. Their main signings this summer – Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus and Fabio Viera β€” unites a common attribute: versatility.

Zinchenko offers options in defense and midfield. Jesus has reportedly arrived in north London to play as a centre-forward but is also comfortable in wide areas. As for Vieira, the 22-year-old from Portugal shared the athlete he can play as #8, #10, or both flanks.

They give Arteta options – and thus flexibility. That could be in a season where he and his teammates are particularly valuable First League Managers are again allowed to appoint five deputies.

It is a conscious transfer strategy. “That’s one of the things (we’ve been thinking about it) – where we can adjust structures, formations and rotations,” Arteta said. “We think obviously it’s important to play with the same players in a different way, more unpredictably, and that’s why we recruited those players.”

The ability to change almost half of their starting XI during a league game will inevitably lead to greater tactical diversity – and Arteta believes Arsenal need a squad that can cope with these increased demands. “It’s going to be a lot more unpredictable to find out what the opponent is going to do,” he added. “It changes, so whatever you have planned in the beginning, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in the end.”

Of course, this works both ways. In the preseason so far, Arteta has been experimenting with different forms. In addition to his usual 4-3-3 formation, he used two front men in the German training camp against Nuremberg and temporarily switched to a back three in the counter game everton at the weekend in Baltimore.

Arteta countered with his usual back four MLS Page Orlando, but there were still elements of experimentation.


William Saliba and company warm up after defeating Orlando City (Photo: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

in the second half, Ben White replaced Cedric at right-back. The return of Wilhelm Saliba, another right centre-back, makes this an intriguing prospect. Certainly, stylistically, white suits the first-choice right-back better Takehiro Tomiyasu than Cedric – and a player of comparable quality to the Japan international.

In attack saw this second half Eddie Nketiah Exchange positions with Jesus. Although the Brazilian mainly played as a centre-forward, with Nketiah on the left, they occasionally switched roles. They combined in the lead up to Arsenal’s second goal, with Jesus being expropriated in the Orlando box before Nketiah stroked home coolly.

Arsenal’s other goals came over Gabriel Martinelli and Tear Nelsonwith Facundo Torres leveling after a sloppy defense for Orlando Pablo Mari and Nuno Tavares.

Albert Sambi Lokonga was one of Arsenal’s most impressive players, playing in a more advanced role as number 8 on the left. The 22-year-old Belgian has been widely tipped as a future No. 6 but Arteta now seems keen to explore his flexibility.

“We’re trying to find where he feels comfortable, where he can develop as best as possible,” said Arteta. “He feels very comfortable in this position and we want to see what he can bring to this position. It’s true we’re also missing Emile (Smith Rowe) and Fabio (Vieira) now so we’re a little short in that position and he’s done well.”

Seated around Edu and Zinchenko were a number of key figures from the Arsenal hierarchy: managing director Vinai Venkatesham and board member Tim Lewis were present as well as Stan and Josh Kroenke. Arsenal will be pleased with what they have done in the window so far but recognize there is still work to be done.

Much of the focus will now be on spending.

Arsenal brought a 33-man squad to America – an unwieldy size. “We have to make some decisions about the players that we’re not going to use consistently and deal with them fairly and directly,” Arteta said. “It’s a process that will start very soon.”

In the meantime, Arteta will continue to use these pre-season fortifications for tweaking and crafting.

He’s never far from thinking about the five-sub rule and the heightened tactical demands it’s likely to impose.

In a sport that could develop a more chess-like quality, Arteta wants to have as many flexible pieces on the board as possible.

(Top Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

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