IN his short managerial career so far, Mikel Arteta has learned that no matter how good your recruitment is, you are always one injury away from having your vision shattered.
The perfect example is Jurrien Timber, a player the Spanish coach was desperate to land last summer – one that he felt would revolutionise Arsenal on and off the ball from full-back.
GettyJurrien Timber required surgery after an ACL injury on the Prem opening day[/caption]
GettyMikel Arteta believes Timber will be an integral part to his side’s style of play[/caption]
During the Gunners pre-season tour of the States, after a 5-0 victory over the MLS All-Stars where Timber made his debut, Arteta spoke glowingly of the Dutch 22-year-old.
He said: “He’s so comfortable on the ball… he’s got that aggression in the duels and that dynamism which I really like.
“You saw with his first action, high press won the ball straight away, won the duel and was ready to go. He is going to be a really important player for us.”
Even during his lengthy rehabilitation phase, Arteta has made a point of stressing how much Timber has been missed in several press conferences.
Back in November, Arteta gushed: “You talk to anybody [at London Colney], everybody that gets close to him they’ll tell you he’s a really special character.
“We were really impressed when we signed him because when you see the player training in our environment you go: ‘Wow what an incredible player’.”
And last month, Arteta went as far as admitting his plans for how the team would look this campaign had to be scrapped after Timber hobbled off at home against Nottingham Forest.
The Dutch star was keen to share recovery pics with his fans
Arsenal boss Arteta will be over the moon to have his defender back
Arteta added: “It was a huge blow. Everyone could see from day one what he was going to bring to the team. The versatility, the quality, the leadership. And an ability that we did not have in the backline.”
In the meantime, Arteta has had to plough on using Oleksandr Zinchenko and Takehiro Tomiyasu at left-back, with both also missing parts of the season through injury.
Polish centre-back Jakub Kiwior even deputised in that role in the second half of their vital 3-1 victory over Liverpool last weekend after Zinchenko limped off with another calf issue.
Tomiyasu is expected to be thrown back in to face West Ham on Saturday.
So far, Arsenal have the best defence in the top flight, with the fewest XG conceded per 90 minutes (0.9) and joint least goals conceded with 22 in 23 games (level with leaders Liverpool).
But Arteta is simply counting down the days until his first choice Timber makes his long-awaited return, which could come as soon as the end of this month without any set-backs.
And what a time to make your return, with Arsenal’s title charge given a new lease of life and the Champions League knock-outs on the horizon.
The Dutch international has picked up the pace in his recovery with ball at feet and being slowly integrated into full-training with the squad, including during last month’s warm-weather break in Dubai.
Such is his character and attitude however, Timber has used this time away well, getting to grips with life in London on and off the pitch, as well as feeding his desire to learn new skills.
Sometimes you really want to join the team – that’s frustrating. It looks so amazing that you want to be a part of it. But I use that as motivation during my recovery.
He recently attended a Saracens rugby match to get to grips with the rules and different tactical set-ups, and admits to sitting at home watching any darts match he can find on TV.
Timber said: “These moments will definitely make me stronger. It’s an opportunity for me to do well. So even though I’m not playing, I can take this moment to become stronger mentally, physically and also feel at home with this group of boys.
“I’ve had some more time to watch the team, see how we play, how I can fit in when I get on the pitch.”
Timber has been an ever-present at the Emirates supporting the side this season, even inviting his twin brother Quinten over for a match during the Christmas period – a rare meet-up these days.
Timber continued: “Sometimes you really want to join the team – when you are enjoying the game so much you really want to go down there and be part of it.
“That’s frustrating. It looks so amazing that you want to be a part of it. But I use that as motivation during my recovery.
“Apart from the injury, the move has been really good. I’ve had some time to really integrate to the club and to London. Now, I do feel at home. I feel comfortable.”
GettyTimber says he feels at home at Arsenal as he prepares to return from injury[/caption]
GettyTimber (front right) has stepped up his rehab after training in Dubai last month[/caption]
There are still times he misses his family, especially with four brothers – two of which play football – and a devoted mother who is constantly between the Netherlands and England.
This is the first time that Jurrien has ever been in a different country to his twin Quinten. From the age of four until a few years ago, they had always played at the same club.
Starting at local Utrecht club DVSU, then on to Feyenoord as six-year-olds – alongside older brother Dylan – before Ajax came calling six years later.
The breakup happened in 2021 as Quinten switched to Utrecht. Jurrien remained at Ajax, learning his trade under the management of Erik ten Hag.
Dealing with this set-back without Quinten by his side has been tough, but it has also been the making of Jurrien. He explained: “[In the past] it made it easier moving to a new club with Quinten.
“At that stage you don’t really realise, but when you look back, you realise you had someone there alongside you, and it was never that difficult joining somewhere new.
“That’s why we were so close. We did the same thing at school, and with football, so every day we were together, everywhere we went. We even had the same friends.
“It’s interesting. That’s all we knew. We were so used to it, until the point we split up. But still, somehow, it wasn’t strange. I don’t know why but it felt normal. I knew it would happen one day.”
Going it alone, Timber is on the verge of reuniting with his Arsenal teammates, as well as the manager that has believed in him from the very beginning.
2022 BSR AgencyJurrien has been supported through his recovery by twin brother Quinten[/caption]
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