After having so few players that could not even fulfil their Premier League fixture with Tottenham in January, Arsenal’s squad has remained pretty close to its full compliment recently.
Emile Smith Rowe missed last Thursday’s clash with Wolves due to illness, and Gabriel Martinelli was suspended for the prior fixture with Brentford but aside from that Mikel Arteta has had pretty much a fully fit group to choose from.
This is good news for the Gunners whose squad is exceptionally thin after the January departures of Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari, Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Folarin Balogun and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
There is one player though who remains absent.
Takehiro Tomiyasu has missed pretty much all of 2022 so far after aggrevating a calf injury during the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg defeat to Liverpool in January.
The Japanese international was fit enough to return to the bench for the Brentford game, only to damage his other calf in the days following.
“Yes, it was the other calf,” Arteta confirmed when speaking in his post-match press conference after the win against Wolves.
“So he came back and he was completely fine, and in training he felt the other calf.
“This is an issue because he’s a professional, who is giving absolutely everything to help us, and in the last few months he’s not been fit.”
Tomiyasu has been an essential component of how Arsenal have turned their form around since arriving on transfer deadline in September.
His role as an inverted full back has been crucial to improving the Gunners’ defensive record, while his combination play with Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard has been key in increasing the team’s goal threat since December.
His absence thus far hasn’t been too keenly felt though due to the impressive form of Cedric Soares.
The Portuguese international has impressed, in particular in the final third where his delivery has been excellent, with Kieran Tierney now playing more of a defensive role to restore the balance to the back line that Arteta prefers.
However, in Tomiyasu’s absence there is still a space in the squad that needs filling as cover in the event of an injury to Cedric.
Nuno Tavares is capable of playing right back, but Arteta has generally been hesitant to use him there thus far, meaning that there is room for a new right-back on the Arsenal bench.
Earlier in the season this role was filled by Hale Ender Ryan Alebiosu who was on the bench for both the Carabao Cup second leg with Liverpool and the Premier League clash with Burnley, but later secured a loan move to League One side Crewe Alexandra for the remainder of the season in January.
In his absence it looks as though that position on the bench is now going to be taken up by Zak Swanson.
The 21-year-old has been a regular for Kevin Betsy’s under-23 side this season, captaining them on several occasions including during their impressive run to the quarter-finals of the Papa John’s Trophy.
Having spent time on loan in the Dutch second division with MVV Maastricht last season, Swanson does have some senior experience although he only ended up making three appearances during his time there before being recalled ahead of schedule.
The 21-year-old was part of the Arsenal first team squad that trained at the Emirates earlier this week along with fellow Hale Enders Omari Hutchinson and Zach Awe, both of whom have also been on the bench for senior games this season.
The Gunners’ under-23 side take on Tottenham in a rearranged Premier League 2 clash on Friday night, but given that the first team’s clash with Watford is not till Sunday it’s likely that Swanson could be involved in both matches, presuming Tomiyasu is not fit.
The fact that the Japanese international has not been in training would seem to suggest that his chances of making Sunday’s clash at Vicarage Road are slim, and Arsenal will be keen not to rush him back given his recent struggles.