Arsenal are close to making Jurrien Timber their second signing of the summer, per Sam Dean. Arsenal initially bid £30M for the defender, which Ajax quickly rejected. They reportedly value him around £50M, but the Gunners are confident the two clubs can meet somewhere in the middle around £40M. Timber would join Kai Havertz, whose transfer to North London is all but announced, as part of Edu & Mikel Arteta’s summer business.
The Telegraph reports that Timber has “effectively agreed personal terms” with Arsenal and would make somewhere in the neighborhood of £130K per week. Signing a right-sided defender like Timber was a clear priority for the Gunners this summer after the poorly timed injuries to both William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu exposed a lack of options on the right side beyond those two and Ben White.
But Timber will likely serve as more than just cover for Saliba and White. Timber is an exceptionally good passer and could be transformed an analog to Oleksandr Zinchenko on the other side of the pitch. He played almost exclusively as a RCB this season at Ajax, but the young Dutch defender’s skill set would lend itself well to inverting / stepping into midfield in possession to help build the play from deep.
Signing Jurrien Timber gives Mikel Arteta options, tactical flexibility, and depth. Against weaker teams, he could deploy both Zinchenko and Timber at the same time for an all out assault on the defense from both sides of the pitch, with double inverting fullbacks to overload the midfield. He could deploy Timber on the right side of a back three with William Saliba in the middle and Gabriel Magalhaes on the left.
He could use Timber to rotate in for William Saliba and / or Ben White to keep both fresher and healthier. White avoided injury this season but started almost every Premier League match and featured in all of them. Saliba wasn’t so lucky. Adding Timber (and getting Tomiyasu back from his knee surgery at some point) will help lighten the load.
Generally, defenders don’t rotate as much as attackers because they don’t have to cover as much ground. But Mikel Arteta’s system asks a lot of the centerbacks and the fullback on the opposite side from the last attacking possession. They often find themselves defending 3-v-3 or 3-v-4, which they’re capable of doing, but takes much more energy to defend in transition than when you (the defense) have numbers up.
The addition of Timber, potentially keeping Kieran Tierney, and Takehiro Tomiyasu’s return would give Mikel Arteta more trusted options on the backline. That “trusted” part is important. I don’t think Arteta has an aversion to rotating his side any more so than other managers, he just hasn’t had as long of a list of players he feels comfortable slotting in.
It would be great if, for example, against a bottom third team at the Emirates next season a few of the first choice defenders could get the day off. The more quality players like Timber available, the more likely that is to happen. Arsenal will be better off over the course of the season for it. And remember, Timber won’t be an out and out backup. Don’t sleep on Arteta transforming Timber into an inverting fullback off the right or using him in other ways to add wrinkles to Arsenal in possession.
It’s an exciting possibility. Let’s hope they get the transfer over the line.