Following years of defensive frailty at the back, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are now a side who boast a number of incredibly impressive options in the heart of their defence, with the likes of Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba and Ben White having all played starring roles in the Gunners’ exceptional start to the 2022/23 campaign.
Having said that, with Gabriel currently being the Spaniard’s only left-footed centre-back in his first-team squad – with Saliba, White and Rob Holding all being predominantly right-footed – there is an argument to be made that the 40-year-old manager could do with a more suitable alternative option to the Brazil international at left centre-back.
However, before spending big in the transfer market on a player who could fulfil this role, Arteta may well already possess a solution to this problem much closer to home – in the shape of Birmingham City loanee, Auston Trusty.
Indeed, when Arsenal signed the 24-year-old in the January transfer window, many supporters may well have been slightly confused as to what exactly the USA international would add to the Gunners’ first-team squad, with The Athletic’s James McNicholas going as far as to state his belief that Trusty may never become a member of Arteta’s first-team side.
In a Q&A back in February, the journalist said of the centre-back’s signing: “Trusty may never make it as far as the Arsenal first team. He remains on loan with the [Colarado] Rapids for now but is expected to be loaned out to a European club for the 2022-23 season to continue his development.”
However, while McNicholas’ claim that the defender would be loaned out once again in the current campaign has proven correct, the journalist’s suggestion that the centre-back may not have the quality to become a first-team squad member at The Emirates is beginning to look like something of an oversight regarding the 24-year-old’s true ability.
Indeed, over his 13 Championship appearances for Birmingham this season, the £1.98m-rated talent has been in exceptional defensive form, helping the Blues keep four clean sheets, as well as making an average of 2.2 tackles, 1.5 interceptions, 4.5 clearances and winning 6.0 duels – at a success rate of 55% – per game.
The centre-back has also posed a significant threat going forwards, scoring two goals and creating one big chance for his teammates, in addition to taking an average of 0.6 shots, making 0.3 key passes, playing 2.1 long balls and completing 0.5 dribbles per game.
These returns have seen the left-footer who John Eustace dubbed a “special talent” who is “going to be a top player” average a quite remarkable SofaScore match rating of 7.19, not only ranking him as Birmingham’s best performer in the league but also as the joint 20th-best player in the second tier of English football as a whole this term.
As such, while it is undeniable that the difference in standard between the Championship and the Premier League is vast, with it very much looking as if Trusty is a level above the second tier, the player who Justin Peach labelled “unreal” could well prove to be the perfect alternative to Gabriel at left centre-back for Arteta – affording the Spaniard balance in both central defensive positions.