At the end of Gameweek 14, Arsenal were level on points with West Ham and sat at the fifth position in the table. Considering the situation they were in after 3 games, Arsenal would be happy about their progress. All the new signings have fitted in seamlessly into Arteta’s system, including Nuno Tavares. While this is usually good news for the club and the fans, Arteta has a selection headache in the upcoming games. In this article, we will discuss about Arsenal’s left-back conundrum.
Kieran Tierney’s importance
Arsenal had a difficult 2020/21 season but Kieran Tierney was one of the bright spots. A product of the Celtic youth academy, Tierney made his senior career debut in 2015. Tierney was an integral part of the Celtic team that won the domestic treble in 2017-18. After winning four consecutive league titles, Tierney moved to Arsenal in the summer of 2019 for a fee of £25 million. This is the highest transfer fee paid for a Scottish national and a Scottish league player.
Tierney missed the majority of his first season in North London due to injury issues. Once football resumed after the pandemic, Tierney won the hearts of many Arsenal fans with his attitude and tireless running. At the end of the PL season, he scored his first goal for Arsenal against Watford. Tierney also adapted as a left sided center-back in Arteta’s three man defense formation. However, he was given the license to roam forward and offer width in attack.
Tierney started in the 2020 FA Cup final for Arsenal and put on a solid show as Arsenal won the game 2-1. This victory raised the fans’ hope for the 2020/21 season, but sadly Arsenal failed to live up to the expectations. They failed to defend their FA Cup after a shock exit at the hands of Southampton. Manchester City marauded them in the EFL Cup and things were looking even more bleak in the Premier League. However, they did progress to the UEL semi-finals where their former manager Unai Emery’s Villarreal eliminated them.
Emergence of Nuno Tavares
Tavares arguably had the lowest profile among Arsenal’s summer signings and nobody expected him to challenge Tierney for a spot in the playing XI. But Tavares has been a revelation ever since Tierney got injured. He has been unstoppable in attack and has a gifted left foot capable of providing pin-point balls into the box. He has made nine appearances so far this season and has one assist to his name.
Mikel Arteta on Tavares & Tierney: “That’s the level we want to achieve, in every position we have players that can perform at the highest level. Kieran hasn’t played in games because he was still injured & in others, Nuno played well, he deserved the chance to continue playing.” pic.twitter.com/nW31oLKLuN
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) December 1, 2021
The key difference between Tavares and Tierney is experience. Tierney has played against almost every top Premier League side in the past two years and this experience will come in handy against United. Tavares is still raw but that can sometimes give you an edge in tight games where you desperately need someone to make things happen. Tierney is definitely the better defender, as evident from his ability to win aerial and duels and track back quickly. Only one of these two can be Arsenal’s left-back against United and the pressure is on Arteta to make the right decision.
🗣 "Last year when we had the issue we had with Kieran [Tierney] when he was out for a while, we had to invent and put players in that position."
Mikel Arteta on Nuno Tavares giving Arsenal a solution to the problem of missing Kieran Tierney pic.twitter.com/OAZK7xBmHrAdvertisement
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) December 1, 2021