Arsenal’s summer has got off to a busy start. After missing out on the Premier League title to Manchester City last season, it was quickly identified that the first-team squad needed more depth if the Gunners were ever going to return to the summit of English football.
The headlines have largely been dominated by the club’s pursuit of Declan Rice and Kai Havertz in recent weeks. However, quietly in the background, Arsenal have been working hard to hammer out a deal to sign Jurrien Timber from Ajax.
That deal has now been agreed, with the Gunners agreeing to a deal worth €45 million (£38.5m/$49m) to bring the Netherlands international to north London and add to Mikel Arteta’s options.
The only question is, once he’s officially through the door, how Timber will be slotted into the Arsenal backline. There are a number of different options, which GOAL takes a look at below…
The story so far
Timber is not a new face on the scene. Despite being just 22 years old, he has already made well over 100 appearances for Ajax and earned 15 caps for the Netherlands.
Continuing a fine tradition of world-class youth development in the Dutch capital, Timber flew through the age groups at the Johan Cruyff ArenA, before making his senior debut in 2020. He has scarcely been out of the starting XI since, helping Ajax to Eredivisie titles in 2021 and 2022.
While the 2022-23 season was a torrid one for the Amsterdammers, Timber’s reputation remains sky high. No one in the Ajax squad made more appearances than him last campaign, and he was picked in various outlets’ Eredivisie team of the season.
A blow for Manchester United?
Timber had long been expected to turn up in the Premier League at some point. However, Manchester United had always seemed like his most likely destination. It was under Erik ten Hag at Ajax that Timber developed into a top-class defender, and the United boss made no secret of his desire to bring him to Old Trafford last summer. “I think that all top clubs in Europe have Timber in their sights,” he said.
This kickstarted a frantic few months of rumours, but in the end the two clubs could not agree a deal. Louis van Gaal, a huge fan of Timber, might have played a role in the move failing to materialise, as he seemed to warn his golden boy off joining the Red Devils in June.
Regardless of whether Van Gaal influenced proceedings, Ten Hag’s hopes of signing Timber have now seemingly been extinguished.
The details of the deal
That’s because Arsenal have swooped in to secure Timber’s services this summer. Personal terms were not an issue, due to the player’s enthusiasm for the move and the Gunners’ generous offer.
Reaching an agreement on a transfer fee has been significantly harder, though. Timber has two years left on his deal, so Ajax could feasibly have held onto him for another season before selling him on.
That is likely why they rejected the Gunners’ initial bid of £30 million ($38.1m) in June. However, a deal has now been struck, and Timber will sign a five-year contract in north London once his medical is complete in the coming days.
What will Timber bring to Arsenal?
So, why exactly have Arsenal been convinced to spend all that money on Timber? His greatest attribute is his zen-like composure on the ball. Following in a long line of Dutch defenders before him, Timber is superb technically, with no Eredivisie player completing more short passes than him during the 2022-23 season.
For a possession-heavy side like Arsenal, this will be a priceless asset. It’s worth noting that Timber’s 74.7 completed passes per 90 minutes was comfortably higher than what any Arsenal player managed last campaign too, though this should be taken with a pinch of salt, considering how dominant Ajax are in the Netherlands.
In addition, his patience on the ball should suit him well to the Gunners’ style of play. As Timber is so confident retaining possession he often waits until the opposition has committed as much as possible before firing his pass through the lines.
Arsenal lit up the Premier League with their lightning-quick transitions last term, and it’s easy to see Timber playing a quarterback-like role from the heart of the defence.