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Can we talk about Cedric Soares?

By Jahid Islam

Hello, readers of We Love You Arsenal! I’m Jahid, @JahidFullStop, back at it again after a while off. And can I just say, I’m absolutely delighted to be back writing for all you beautiful people! Exam season has come and gone, my results were good (thank fuck!) and now my focus is shifted onto the form of Arsenal Club de Futbol. To my lecturers and tutors, I apologise.

With 15 'cup finals' left in our 2021/2022 campaign, the race for top 4 is well and truly on, folks. Each player must contribute to the good old cause, and an injury to one of our starting XI could paralyse our chances of UCL football next season. Especially relevant after that comprehensive clearing out in the January transfer window in which we saw Auba, Chambers, Mari, AMN and Kola headed for the exit door in some form or the other.

More specific to this article, that’s two right backs gone. One on a permanent to Villa, and the other off to Mourinho’s Roma for a brief renaissance. As of right now, our right back options consist of Takehiro Tomiyasu, who’s been the main man for the job, an absolute icon already, and Cedric Soares, who’s been a seemingly uninspiring back up option, so far. Dropping a hint of foreshadowing there.

That is until late, with Tomiyasu out with a Calf injury, Cedric was reintegrated back into the match day squad against Wolves in which he contributed to a solid defensive effort, and a crucial win against a strong contender in the battle for top 4. Cedric kept his spot for the Brentford game yesterday, and his persistent wide runs and improved defensive contributions helped us outplay the West London side, and secure an all important win.

In particular, a last ditch interception in the 75th minute prevented a pass going through to an open Brentford forward, and his ability to cross in-swinging balls into that ‘corridor of uncertainty’ would make more of an impact with a more aerially dominant and more predatory forward than what Lacazette and Nketiah can offer. Specifically, a brilliant ball to a completely unmarked Saka at the far post in the 82nd minute helped sustain our multi-faceted attacking pressure and keep Brentford on their toes. Almost as much pressure as when your lecturer whips out a quiz at the end of a lecture, to test how much you were paying attention.

Furthermore upon the introduction of Nicolas Pepe, who I must admit was a pain in the arse for the Brentford defence when cutting in from that right wing and should’ve gotten a penalty, Cedric’s overlapping runs in part facilitated Pepe’s movement with the ball. It’ll also be really interesting to see what combo of Pepe/Saka and Tomiyasu/Cedric is used by Arteta going forward.

I bet he feels like a customer at one of them small fast food shops during a rambunctious night out with the boys. You know the ones I'm on about. The ones where you’ve lost your wallet, smashed your phone, and woken up on one of your mates’ sofas hugging half a Donner kebab. But will Arteta choose chicken strips or chicken nuggets? Fat chips or French fries? There’s a huge difference, folks.

However, there is a clear difference between Cedric and Tomi. With Tomi, there’s that defensive solidarity and formational asymmetry favoured by Arteta. Like being hugged by a burly man; you feel assured and safe. And I bet Tomi gives the absolute bestest of hugs.

Typically, a more central role for Tomi contrasts the wider, more gung-ho, balls to the wall style of Kieran Tierney. But with Cedric, there’s a slight essence of 'balls to the wall’ on the right hand side as well which, whilst offering another dimension to our attack, puts added strain on our defence and central midfielders.

Moreover, his defensive acumen is still not up to scratch. Brentford’s consolation goal was onside as a result of Cedric’s positioning, and his tackle on Henry in the 55th minute was reckless and quite fortunate to avoid punishment. Quite surprising that John Moss didn’t give him a card given how fucked that officiating was. I’m still fuming, and if we lost as a result of those calls, my twitter would be suspended by now.

But it’s beginning to become clear as to why Arteta was confident with our shrunken squad despite shipping out so many full-backs over the January window. Having a competent contingency plan in Cedric Soares offers an alternative attacking option to Tomiyasu than a Calum Chambers would, who’s quite similar stylistically. And if the central midfield and centre back quartet of Xhaka-Partey and Gabriel-White remain in contention for the remainder of our games, Cedric’s defensive insecurities will be adequately compensated for. It is a team game after all…

I’ve been Jahid (@JahidFullStop) for We Love You Arsenal! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see y’all in the next one. Take care, and ba-bye!

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