If there has been any single position that has been particularly snakebit with injury luck this season, it has undoubtedly been fullback. Kieran Tierney’s season-ending surgery and Takehiro Tomiyasu’s recurring calf issues have tested Arsenal’s fullback depth, which has proven to be about as deep as a kiddie pool.
Despite their admirable efforts, neither Nuno Tavares or Cedric Soares have inspired much confidence. They have done their part admirably to help Arsenal find themselves at the cusp of Champions League soccer in the stead of Tierney and Tomi, but their shortcomings have been glaring, and the gap between them and the starters is palpable. With Cedric potentially exiting the club and Nuno still miles away from being anything resembling a reliable defender, the Gunners will have to revisit the fullback position earlier than expected.
After last summer’s successful transfer of Tomiyasu from Bologna, It looks like Arsenal are turning to the Italian side once again for another fullback, this time keeping tabs on teen starlet Aaron Hickey.
Arsenal monitoring Bologna left back Aaron Hickey ahead of summer transfer window #AFC in the market for a versatile left sided defender with Tierney & Tomiyasu both struggling with injuries this season.https://t.co/UrjAYpAsJd— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) May 3, 2022
The 19-year old Scottish left-back has been rapidly turning heads this season with his impressive defensive displays. He checks all of the boxes for Arteta’s system - he contributes in the attack (5 goals and 1 assist) as much as the defense, can play across the defense and in the midfield, and, as with many of Arsenal’s recent transfers, is young. To boot, he has also played more minutes than any other teenager across Europe’s top 5 leagues, a testament to his talent and his manager’s faith in him.
Arsenal still have fullbacks Hector Bellerin, on loan at Real Betis, and Brooke Norton-Cuffy, on loan at Lincoln City, on the books. But Hector’s success in Spain looks like his stay will become permanent, and Norton-Cuffy is young and talented but needs further time to develop as a starter in a lower league before he can be counted on as a first team player. Hickey is only slightly older than 18 year old Norton-Cuffy, but his experience, upside, and success at the top level in Italy makes a move for him a prudent one for the Gunners.
The more pressing needs at striker and midfield will eat up the headlines and attention this summer, but the addition of Hickey looks like it could be another smart and important step toward building the kind of squad depth that will help Arsenal make deep runs across several competitions next season. Edu and Arteta’s recent success at assessing and securing the right players for the club has instilled confidence in their vision for the club. Here’s hoping that continues with European competition now secured.