Takehiro Tomiyasu has been absent for Arsenal since his injury in the 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool in January. The Japanese international was initially replaced by Ben White before Mikel Arteta received a boost with the return of Cedric Soares from injury.
Cedric has been a consistent performer for Arsenal and contributed to the six Premier League wins from the last seven matches. He has been lauded for his displays and rightly so. The 30-year-old faced criticism when called upon last season but has stepped up since then.
Mikel Arteta had used Ben White in a covering right-back role. Confident enough to trust the England international in the position. Gareth Southgate also has this same faith and made a tactical switch in the 2-1 win over Switzerland which saw White again return to the right-back position.
Speaking after the match, Southgate said: “We played out from the back well, Ben White and Marc Guehi were very good. Ben got caught a bit for the goal but apart from that to come in at late notice with John Stones feeling something, he and Marc should be pleased.”
The comparison to Stones if anything should frustrate White. He has been by far the better player this season and arguably the best English centre-half this campaign and justified the £50 million price tag Brighton gave the player in the summer.
Yet his ability to deputise at full-back should encourage Mikel Arteta to trust his current options and provide an opportunity for the next Hale End star. Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe have been the latest players to establish themselves in the senior squad from the academy, there is something special brewing in the red half of north London and it must not be blocked.
Charlie Patino has looked to be the next in line, however, the opportunities at right full-back could lean on another special talent getting the nod instead.
football.london understands that Brooke Norton-Cuffy is drawing the attention of Arteta for his performances whilst on loan with Lincoln City. He has played both right-back and right wing-back since arriving in January and scored already despite being just 18 years of age.
With White and Cedric both showing comfortable performances in the role, the idea of signing a new right-back to compete with Tomiyasu seems counter-productive. Norton-Cuffy would then have yet another player ahead of him to fight for an opportunity.
With young players, should no opportunity present itself, the club can risk losing some of the best talents who leave in search of more guaranteed game time. The famous quartet of Serge Gnabry, Ismael Bennacer, Donyell Malen and Yunus Musah give Arsenal fans regret at what could have been, had they stayed.
Arsenal do not want a further repeat. Plus, considering how solid both White and Cedric have shown to be there is no need. Cedric has two years remaining on his deal which would give plenty more time for Norton-Cuffy to gain further experiences, perhaps in the Championship next year.
Folarin Balogun left on loan to Middlesbrough in the winter window and has impressed in the northeast. Norton-Cuffy could yet prove to be the next star and a loan to the second tier may allow that next stage of development to be realised.