Under the Radar: Alternatives to Jurrien Timber

It was all going so well for Jurrien Timber at Arsenal.

His competitive debut after joining the club from Ajax came against Manchester City in the Community Shield and yielded a first trophy with his new employers.

The 22-year-old’s impressive performance in that fixture earned him a start for the Gunners’ Premier League opener against Nottingham Forest and he was a key component of their swashbuckling first-half showing.

However, he appeared to damage his knee shortly before the interval and pulled up soon after the restart with what has since been confirmed as an ACL injury.

With Timber out for an extended period, Arsenal could well return to the market in search of a replacement – so we used the Twenty3 Toolbox to pick out several options.

Profiling Timber

Timber’s 50-minute Premier League debut came at left-back – though he is naturally a right-footed centre-half and is equally comfortable at right-back – where the Dutchman showcased his ability to either invert or overlap, with his use of the ball standing out in particular.

That superb cameo has shot Timber to the top of the division’s rankings, per 90, for final third passes attempted (20.89) and completed (19.29), as well as sequences with 10 or more passes featured in (25.71).

Naturally, these numbers are inflated by a miniscule sample size of barely over a half – but his statistics for the same metrics across the 2022-23 campaign for Ajax are still excellent.

Per 90 in the Eredivisie, Timber ranked fourth for final third passes attempted (12.38) and third for final third passes completed (10.89), while no player in the division was involved more frequently in sequences with 10 or more passes (15.29) – all achieved with a league-leading 93.42% passing accuracy.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta clearly saw the talented young defender as a key component of his plans for the season and may now look for a player akin to the one he has just lost to injury – capable of covering multiple defensive positions and excellent on the ball.

We used the Discover tool’s similarity rating function to compile a list of defenders that bear a resemblance to Timber in the four aforementioned stat groups. Of those that were attainable, three stood out.

Eric García

Eric García’s future at Barcelona is in doubt.

The 22-year-old has not managed to cement himself as a consistent starter under manager Xavi, making just two substitute appearances this season in LaLiga and playing just 1,543 minutes in the competition last term.

However, he has demonstrated quality and ambition in possession when he has played, ranking second in the Spanish top flight last season for forward passes attempted (24.67) and completed (20.71) per 90.

Arsenal are among the teams linked with a move for the former Manchester City centre-back, who has also featured occasionally at right-back or as a defensive midfielder, making him well-suited to the inverted full-back role Arteta was hoping to deploy Timber in, with the Discover tool rating him at 93% similarity for the chosen stat groups.

Jerry St. Juste

Sporting CP’s Jerry St. Juste is another to be given a 93% similarity rating to Timber by the Discover tool.

Of the three options on this list, the Dutch central defender profiles most closely to his stricken compatriot in terms of final third passes completed per 90, managing 10.49 in the Portuguese top flight last term – a rate only one player in the division could better.

Additionally, he exceeds García as a forward passer, completing 26.13 such passes per 90 in 2022-23 – a league-leading rate.

The 26-year-old, like García, has also played his share of games at right-back and defensive midfield – though he has operated almost exclusively as a central defender in recent seasons.

The only point of concern with St. Juste is that he is still out injured with an issue that saw him miss the back end of the previous campaign. That does not appear to have put Liverpool off, however, with the Reds reportedly interested in securing his signature before the window closes.

Matheus Reis

The departure of Kieran Tierney on loan to Real Sociedad in spite of Timber’s injury leaves Arsenal light on specialist left-sided options outside of Oleksandr Zinchenko.

St. Juste’s Sporting team-mate, Matheus Reis, then, might be the ideal solution.

The left-footed Brazilian spent the majority of the 2022-23 campaign on the left side of a back three but is equally comfortable as a conventional left-back or a left wing-back, starting this campaign in the latter role.

Despite being more accustomed to spending time higher up the pitch than the other two names on this list, the 28-year-old is more than capable of dictating games from deep – he ranked fourth in the Portuguese top flight last season for passes attempted (77.14) and completed (70.03) per 90.

The Discover tool ranks him fractionally lower on the similarity scale than the other two, at 92%, but Matheus’ comfort on the ball, capacity to both invert or overlap and natural fit on the left make him an attractive option.

All visualisations in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.