Welcome to part two of the ‘Building The Arsenal’ series, in which I take a look at the current depth chart, contract situations for each of the players. I’ll attempt to project their individual futures, and the club’s objectives for the upcoming transfer window this summer. The first part of the series talked about goalkeepers; up next is right back.
There isn’t a single spot on the Arsenal backline that doesn’t have question marks somewhere along the depth chart. Right now the Gunners are praying that new makeshift rightback Ainsley Maitland-Niles stays fit to close out the season. But things are looking up for the future - if they can just solidify one thing.
Current Depth Chart
At 24, Hector Bellerin is the solid #1 option at right back. His season-ending injury, coupled so closely with the injury of Rob Holding, saw the defense take a massive hit. However, after him is a less than ideal hodgepodge.
Lichtsteiner was brought it on a free to help spell Bellerin - occasionally. After a few matches, it was clear he was no longer capable of competing at the top level. He hasn’t played in two months and rarely even makes the bench now. We know Carl Jenkinson loves Arsenal, but he isn’t the solution, even for the backup role.
Meanwhile, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has served as the most effective Bellerin replacement, but primarily in the right wing-back position. His speed and size allow him to recover and cover the overlapping runs in the attack that Emery is looking for. Until Bellerin returns, or the summer transfer window arrives, right back is his position.
Based on the odd nature of the position this year at Arsenal, I’m starting here with the depth chart to begin the season. We will get to the future depth chart below.
- Starter: Héctor Bellerín
- Backup: Stephan Lichtsteiner
- The Future: Jordi Osei-Tutu
- Depth: Ainsley Maitland-Niles & Carl Jenkinson
*Transfer values taken from Transfermrkt - Arsenal.
Only Lichtsteiner’s contract is set to expire this summer. The two most talented players are locked in for years to come, with depth options under contract if needed.
- Héctor Bellerín - Under contract through June 2023.
- Stephan Lichtsteiner - Contract expires on June 30th, 2019.
- Jordi Osei-Tutu - Under contract through June 2020.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles - Under contract through June 2023.
- Carl Jenkinson - Under contract through June 2020.
Objectives for Summer 2019 Transfer Window
- Héctor Bellerín - No action needed. Should step back into the starting role in August, barring a setback in his recovery.
- Stephan Lichtsteiner - Won’t be extended. Was never able to live up to the hopes the club had for him as a backup to Bellerin.
- Jordi Osei-Tutu - Still too inexperienced to be tossed into the first team on a regular basis. The club should look to get him out on a loan to a Championship or League One side. Regular senior level football will give us, and the club, a better idea of his potential.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles - Time to decide if he is willing to transition into a right back role, likely as the 1B role to Hector. His versatility will always be beneficial to the squad, whether as a right midfielder or emergency left back.
- Carl Jenkinson - Oh, Jenks. You want players that love the club. But Arsenal want to be a club that can return to and compete in the Champions League, in addition to the Premier League. You need your two-deep depth chart to be at that level. Unfortunately, Jenkinson isn’t a part of that scenario.
- New Signings - If the club doesn’t decide that AMN is officially their second right back, a new signing is required. However, given the need at other positions, right back has fallen down the priority list thanks to AMN’s form over the past few months.
Projected 2019/20 Depth Chart
- Starter: Hector Bellerin
- Backup: Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Future Prospect: Jordi Osei-Tutu
That’s a talented and speedy right back depth chart. How would you feel about AMN permanently shifting into that role? Is it really worth Arsenal spending some of their limited summer transfer funds on a new backup to Bellerin?