In the summer of 2021, Portuguese defender Nuno Tavares made an entry at Arsenal. He arrived purposely as a well-established cover for the injury-prone Kieran Tierney, one of Arsenal’s golden boys and a player earmarked for the Gunners’ captaincy.
Fast forward to eight months later, the youngster, signed from Portuguese giants Benfica, is under the spotlight for not the best reasons, most of them laced with sympathy at open mistrust from the same man who signed him, Mikel Arteta.
Living his Arsenal contract under the shadow of Tierney means Tavares has a big task ahead as he tries to dislodge the Scot. His chance arrived when Tierney returned from international duty with a knee injury that would rule him out for the remainder of the season.
Tavares was a straight swap, and he went in, starting the game against Crystal Palace but he didn’t last more than the opening half. He was culpable for Palace’s two opening goals as Arsenal went to the break trailing 2-0. The Gunners eventually lost 3-0 and in the next game, Mikel Arteta ruthlessly overlooked him, to play a midfielder – Granit Xhaka – as a left-back.
That move cost Arsenal, not just the game but potentially a top-four place and with Tottenham Hotspur taking advantage in the top four race, we are more likely to see predictions and previews on SportyTrader that are unfavorable for Arsenal.
Now Arteta is facing all the backlash, but the manager hasn’t admitted that indeed he messed up in sending out Xhaka to play at left-back. But the question remains, where does this leave Tavares?
The move to leave him out and play a makeshift left-back, which backfired, is a blow to Tavares’ confidence. He is a young player, and in his first season in Arsenal and a new league. The least Arteta could do is give him the chance to redeem himself. Tavares now knows where his manager places him and that isn’t very good for his development on the team.
He may go into the remainder of the season carrying the blame for Arsenal’s struggles at these latter stages of the season, while in reality Arsenal has just been poor and the manager exacerbated it by poor squad selection and simply failing to deal with injuries to two key players.
Arteta’s transfer dealings in January were criticized, as he allowed key senior players to leave, without replacing them. He was left with a thin squad and it is easy to see the Gunners lack the depth to go the length in the top four race. The January activity is coming back to bite, and sadly, Tavares is among the players to bear the brunt.
The move to leave him out in favor of a makeshift may be predictive of how Arsenal will transact in the summer. It could be a sign of the management scouting around for another left-back, which would further crush Tavares.
It is already being reported that Tavares could be used as a makeweight as Arsenal plans for big money moves in the summer. If that is the case, it may be a blessing for Tavares to go searching elsewhere, with the hope that a new manager would trust him more.