The news that Kieran Tierney would be missing for the rest of the Premier League season was a hammer blow to the momentum that Arsenal had acquired. It was evident in the game against Crystal Palace that the shake-up of the squad, forced through absences, had an impact on the performance.
The Arsenal defence looked shaky and were punished multiple times. Nuno Tavares and Cedric Soares may be decent cover, as shown through both of their performances in games this season, however, both not being the first choice weakens the output significantly.
However, there could be positive news in the near future with the return of Takehiro Tomiyasu. The Japanese international has missed nearly all of 2022 with two separate calf injuries.
The versatile defender would have been very useful to the team throughout the weeks leading up to the run-in. In particular, providing defensive security in matches against Liverpool and Palace where the side were undone.
With Tierney out and Tavares struggling, however, Arteta may with to get some unorthodox cover for the left-back role. He can count on Tomiyasu after the 23-year-old already put himself forward to play where the Spaniard wants him.
Upon his arrival at Arsenal on deadline day, it was obvious Arsenal had got their hands on a very useful player. Speaking in his first interview, Tomiyasu volunteered to cover any role that Arteta needed him for.
“For me, it doesn’t matter,” Tomiyasu said when asked where his best position was. “Because the most important thing is to play in the game.
“So if the coach told me like, ‘You have to play striker’ then I’ll play striker. So, yeah, for me it doesn’t matter which position I play.”
Tomiyasu featured at left-back twice for Bologna in Serie A remaining undefeated in both games. The first was a 2-2 draw with Spezia and the second was a 1-1 draw with Torino. However, he was caught out of position for Spezia’s second goal.
Now two years older and having experience at Premier League level, Tomiyasu has rarely gotten caught out and his lessons learned at left-back would surely be a benefit to Arteta.
Furthermore, with Cedric being a more offensive right-back than his teammate, Tomiyasu’s disciplined positioning perhaps allows Cedric to be more influential in the final third. Ensuring there is enough cover in defence when the Portuguese full-back ventures forwards.
That being said, the impact of dropping Tavares for an unorthodox choice might be too damaging for the 22-year-old’s confidence. He has already been hooked off the field twice before the second half this year.
There is a strong argument Arteta needs to put more confidence in Tavares to ensure his mentality is not left in an unrecoverable position. Playing him against Brighton and Southampton, games Tomiyasu will not be available for, could give him a much-needed lift.