The confirmation that Kieran Tierney will be out for the remainder of the season – whilst not unexpected given the rumours on Monday night – was still a big blow to our hopes of top four and I think it’s fair to say that there were a few of us – certainly me included, that are feeling pretty battered and bruised by this week so far. Suffering the ignominy of defeat in the manner in which we did was tough, it’ll dent the confidence of this young Arsenal team, but to have it compounded by more bad news on the Tuesday makes me feel like everyone who has any kind of affinity or relationship with The Arsenal must have crossed black cats and all walked under ladders during the international break.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow and in the fallout from the Monday night defeat at Selhurst Park, all the talk is going towards how we cope with Tierney’s loss. Nuno Tavares has had consecutive stinkers when he’s started in 2022, so a lot of people are questioning whether he can be given a run out against Brighton on Saturday. For sure you’d think Brighton might target him and certainly they’ll see our full back positions as an opportunity to press home an advantage after Cedric was also given a torrid time against Zaha, but in my head we simply cannot NOT play Nuno at the weekend and I hope that in training this week Arteta has his arms around Tavares and is telling him “be my guy now”. For all of the shoddiness of his performance in those crucial matches against Palace, let’s not forget that there was a time in the season in which he was keeping Tierney out of the team. That’s how good he was earlier in the season and that’s the Tavares that we need to see on Saturday to give us all hope that this season isn’t going to derail because of injury.
Tavares played against Newcastle after his Liverpool shocker and earlier in the season and got an assist and had a great game. It was a home match against an opponent we could pin back and if we can see more of the same against Brighton at the weekend then perhaps it can patch up the belief of the player. But also, we need to play the player at the weekend because we can’t be going makeshift at this time. Last season’s travesty of having Xhaka at fullback didn’t work and we can’t see that again on a regular basis. Arteta needs to have Nuno in his office this week and telling him that he has an opportunity to get the best run in the side he’s ever had; he needs to tell him that he’s got the keys to that left hand side and that he believes in him. If he does that and if other players step up like they didn’t against Crystal Palace, I believe we’ll see a better Nuno than the one we’ve seen in his last two starts.
Something else to point out as well; Nuno’s two starts this season have come more than two months apart. Paul Merson – never not quick to jump in on players if he thinks they’ve had a shocker – even said he felt sorry for him because he’s going in cold and at halftime on Monday I buzzed my mate Johnny who said exactly the same. Maybe by telling him he’s starting this weekend it can give Nuno the confidence boost he needs to put in a good performance and if he does put one in, then we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief and get the hope back for the rest of this season.
On the other flank the news was equally as frustrating, as Tomiyasu is now not going to be back until after the Southampton game, which means he probably won’t start away to Chelski and maybe the United game is when we get him back properly. If that’s the case we’re essentially looking at a third of the season without him and whilst we can all rue that luck, I do remember reading one or two things about a couple of injury problems at Bologna. If that’s the case then we need to have a proper think about next season and the need for a really good right back in reserve is important. Cedric has done ‘ok’ but you can’t afford to have ‘ok’ in your side in the Premier League for any prolonged period of time. We all know we need a striker (Lord knows it’s painful enough right now having to watch Lacazette every week), we all know we need another centre midfielder, but you start looking at how long Tomi has been out and you start to think that we probably also need another proper full back to provide competition for the Japanese international.
Then we come to Partey, confirmed with an injury to his thigh and knowing Partey as we do in his Arsenal career, I’m expecting us to not see him at least until the Man United game. It is yet another blow and will leave Arteta scratching his head at what to do, but to my mind he shouldn’t be scratching too hard, because the answer feels fairly obvious to me. We need to shift the system up a bit. We can’t have Xhaka playing in an advanced position with the absence of these latest set of players. We need to have Nuno playing further up the pitch, Xhaka alongside Sambi and then tucking in to that space behind Nuno when he ventures forward. That simply HAS to be the way and we have to revert back to that style, which we did earlier in the season and at times last season. This is not the time to be cute with experiments like a back three or playing Xhaka at left back. Revert to that earlier formation and let’s see how we go.
Oh, and for the love of everything that is holy, hook Lacazette out of that team. He’s offering nothing and we should be showing that bad performance after bad performance has consequences. I might do a specific piece on Lacazette and that central striker role tomorrow, so for now I’ll leave it there and catch you all tomorrow.