Mikel Arteta uncovers surprising secret weapon driving Arsenal’s title challenge –

Mikel Arteta favours versatility. If you can cover a number of roles then you’ll immediately work your way into his good books.

Kiwior returned a WhoScored.com rating of just 5.33 as Arsenal fell to a third successive defeat in all competitions. Their winter break came at the perfect time for Arteta’s side as they regrouped.

However, when Zinchenko came off at the break against Liverpool at the start of February, the expectation was that Jurgen Klopp’s side would target the former Spezia man as they sought to capitalize upon Gabriel Magalhaes’ first-half own goal. Since his return to the XI, Kiwior hasn’t really put a foot wrong.

Indeed, six of Kiwior’s seven league starts this season have come at left-back, and prior to the turn of the year, his performances were disappointing to say the least. When he arrived from Italy a little over 12 months ago, he wasn’t a household name on these shores, yet joined with a big reputation.

Arsenal could have easily cut their losses on Kiwior after just a year, with the defender linked with a January switch to AC Milan, but the club stood firm in their desire to retain his services. The decision could prove a masterstroke.

There are even suggestions that Arsenal don’t need Zinchenko upon his return to fitness given Kiwior’s form, though it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves. Different left-backs for different needs, and all that.

The Portuguese side made it difficult for their English counterparts at the Dragao, and this is evident in that the ball was in play for just 51.7 per cent of the game. A left-back of Zinchenko’s calibre would have helped Arsenal advance the play and gain a better foothold of the game itself, a facet to Kiwior’s game that is found wanting.

While few for the Gunners could cover themselves in glory, Kiwior did return a WhoScored.com rating of just 5.90 as he, along with his teammates, struggled to assert themselves in a hostile atmosphere against a Porto side that has routinely made it beyond the group stages of European competition. Five fouls committed was more than any other player on the pitch and points to a lack of experience at this level, a quality that Zinchenko packs in abundance.

That being said, Kiwior’s turnaround in fortunes has been notable to say the least. Whereas injuries to Timber, Tomiyasu, and, crucially, Zinchenko could have derailed Arsenal’s title hopes, Kiwior’s re-emergence as a viable left-back option for Arteta’s side means they are able to remain in the hunt for silverware.

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