Arsenal have one major injury concern heading into March.
Takehiro Tomiyasu ‘s stop-start 2022 continued on Thursday night as he was ruled out against Wolves, having only made his return to the matchday squad for the 2-1 win over Brentford last weekend.
As a result, the Japan international has now missed six of the Gunners’ last eight matches since the turn of the year and he could be set for another lengthy period on the sidelines.
The 23-year-old suffered a setback in training ahead of the Wolves game, sustaining another calf problem which makes him doubtful for Arsenal’s upcoming games against Watford, Leicester City and Liverpool.
“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.
“So 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.”
Furthermore, sports scientist Dr. Rajpal Brar has since told The Arsenal Way that Arteta may have to gamble with Tomiyasu’s fitness after explaining how the defender can be impacted by a calf injury.
“With muscular injuries it’s a risk versus reward where it’s almost probabilities,” he said. “So, what you’re saying is, ‘alright Tomiyasu’s at 75%, can we risk him?’
“And so that’s kind of always a grey area that comes in when it comes to elite sport. They don’t always work for you, they only work against you.
“It’s common for, not just calves, it’s common for anything to compensate, especially when you’re dealing with an extended hiatus. Now, when you ramp up and you’re coming back you’re always going to have potential compensation in other parts of your body.
“Imagine like the body as a set of chain links when one link is weakened, the others pick up the slack, right. So, it’s not always uncommon for that to happen.”
Now, if Tomiyasu is unavailable for the trip to Watford next weekend or subsequent games against Leicester, Liverpool and Aston Villa before the end of March, his obvious replacement in the Arsenal XI is Cedric Soares.
The Portuguese defender has turned in three respectable performances during Tomiyasu’s absence, whilst Benjamin White is another option having filled in at right-back on a couple of occasions this season.
However, the longer Tomiyasu is out for, the longer Arsenal will be left short when it comes to naming a matchday squad.
Going off Arsenal.com, there are currently 21 senior players listed and as Premier League teams are permitted to name a 20-man matchday squad for each game it means Arteta will have to call up an academy player whenever at least one first-team star is ruled out.
This was the case when Tomiyasu missed the 1-0 win over Wolves as youngster Zach Awe was named on the bench and when Gabriel Martinelli was suspended against Brentford as Omari Hutchinson took his place in the matchday squad.
The trend continued on Thursday night when Tomiyasu and Emile Smith Rowe had to drop out from the matchday squad Arteta had named for the win over Brentford.
But whilst Hutchinson kept his place amongst the substitutes, Zak Swanson received his first ever senior call-up as he got the nod over Awe to replace Tomiyasu on the bench.
As a right-back who is capable of performing in a variety of positions, the 21-year-old is more of a natural cover for Tomiyasu and could be in line for another first-team call-up in the coming weeks.