On Monday Arsenal face Manchester United away. It is a game that would solidify Arsenal’s top 3 intentions if they win; or plunge us back into depression if we lose.
Following their good performance against Nottingham Forest, there have been plenty of calls from fans to put Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney into the starting XI for the key game against Man U. Emery should not bow down to the pressure.
Tuesday’s 5-0 victory over Nottingham Forest was Rob Holding’s 1st senior game since December 2018.
Holding suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on during a 2–2 draw against Manchester United nearly a year ago.
Likewise Tierney has spent 4 months out following a hernia injury, which subsequently required surgery for.
Both players are top young talents and will be mainstays in the Arsenal first team, so it is important that Emery looks at the bigger picture.
All being well, this season Arsenal will play around 50 games. There is a lot of football to come.
To cope with the work load, Emery needs to rotate his squad and ensure players do not pick up long the term injuries that hampered the clubs top 4 and Europa league challenge last season. It is also important that he manages the work load of returning players so that they immediately break down once more.
Both Holding and Tierney performed brilliantly against Nottingham Forest, but a Premier League game against Manchester United would be a huge step up; and one which might be a step up too soon.
What makes more sense is to leave both with the “mid-week squad” in the short term.
Next Thursday we play Standard Liege at home. It would make more sense to play Holding and Tierney in that game, continuing their rehabilitation at a lower level, than put them into a big game at Old Trafford.
It might be seen as some as a bit of a risk not to play both against Man U, but looking at the bigger picture it makes a lot of sense.
Following the game against Liege, Arsenal face Bournemouth. Once again Emery should not be tempted to put Tierney and Holding in.
After Bournemouth, we have an international break, with our 1st game back against Sheffield United on Monday 21st October. That is nearly a month away.
This should be the game that Holding and Tierney are slated in for a Premier League return.
The Sheffield United fixture is over 3 weeks away. By that point both players would have had a months full team training under their belt, as well as 2 senior games. They will be ready for Premier League football.
Putting them in against Manchester United would be short sighted. It would be playing the strongest XI at the risk of one of the 2 suffering another injury – which is likely for players returning from long term problems.
Not playing the pair against Man U means that come Sheffield United, both (and Hector Bellerin) are fit and strong and ready to go for the rest of the season. A sacrifice in the short term to see the benefit in the long term.
I am excited to see Holding, Bellerin and Tierney play together. They will be 3 of the back 4 for at least the next 5 years. But to ensure we get the best out of them for the next decade, it is important that we keep their recoveries from long term injuries slow and do not rush them back.