The unlikely figure of Nuno Tavares who could hold the top four fate of Arsenal in his hands has broken his silence on an “extremely frustrating” call by Mikel Arteta.
The Portuguese left-back arrived last summer in a deal worth around £8m. The 22-year-old featured heavily earlier in the season, racking up a streak of six successive league starts between October-December.
However, Kieran Tierney would ultimately fend off the new recruit, going on to re-establish himself as Arteta’s No1 choice on the left side.
However, Tierney recently underwent knee surgery that is expected to rule him out for the remainder of the campaign.
That is a bitter blow to Arsenal who are embroiled in a fierce battle for fourth spot.
Nuno Tavares deputised at left-back in their last outing against Crystal Palace. The full-back struggled and was partly responsible for Palace’s second goal after a mix-up with Gabriel Magalhaes.
That led to his half time hooking despite it being Tavares’ first league start since December 2.
In the aftermath, Arteta apologised to Tavares and explained the decision when stating (via the Mirror): “Today it was just a tactical reason.
“How I want to do it with what Palace was doing. And how we could attack and control the game much better in that position.
“We put on another attacking midfielder with Emile in that space and that was the only reason. I’m sorry that it was Nuno again but we had to do it.”
Champions League fate could rest with Nuno Tavares
With Tierney out for the season, Tavares may be entrusted with holding down the fort at left-back for the run-in.
Of course, Arteta could utilise Granit Xhaka as a makeshift left-back. He could also push Cedric Soares over to the left side when Takehiro Tomiyasu returns at right-back. Though given Tavares is a recognised left-back, logic would dictate he’ll get the nod.
Arsenal could therefore do without Tavares suffering a dip in form or crisis in confidence.
However, despite labelling his half-time sub as “extremely frustrating”, the rest of Tavares’ comments suggest he’s more than up for the fight to the end.
Breaking his silence on the substitution and defeat, Tavares said on Twitter: “Monday was an extremely frustrating night for me personally, for the team and the fans.
“It’s important to pick ourselves up, learn from the mistakes and react positively for Saturday’s game. Still a lot to fight for. COYG.”
Arsenal have the chance to put that wrong right against Brighton in a 3pm kick off on Saturday.