Arsenal vs Norwich: Tomiyasu’s tactical freedom in 4-2-3-1

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Arsenal, Tomi

Takehiro Tomiyasu had a far more adventurous attacking role for Arsenal against Norwich as the right-back was given tactical freedom in the 4-2-3-1 system. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

What a debut for the man from Japan! Only joining up with his new Arsenal teammates on Thursday following his international exploits, few expected to see Takehiro Tomiyasu thrust into the starting lineup against Norwich.

It’s a decision that might have been somewhat forced for Mikel Arteta with Thomas Partey only fit enough to make the bench on Saturday meaning Ainsley Maitland-Niles had to come into midfield (would he have started at right-back?), but everyone is glad it was made.

Coming in on the right side of defence as part of the desired back four moving ahead in the Premier League season, expectations were that Arsenal would build out from defence in the 3-2-5 shape they so often employ, with the new arrival making up one part of that back three.

Dubbed a centre-back who has filled in at right-back, the analysis of Tomiyasu isn’t off the mark: he is a centre-back who has filled in at right-back.

Takehiro Tomiyasu had a far more adventurous attacking role for Arsenal against Norwich as the right-back was given tactical freedom in the 4-2-3-1 system

Where he might have ‘filled in’ previously, it looks like being a position he can thrive in. This was not the defensive make-up of a defender expected. He got up and down that right flank (not a great deal), into that midfield and, notably, even into the box during his debut outing.

The plan was to attack Norwich. In other matches where the 22-year-old plays there won’t be as much free roaming, that’s for sure, and as an attacking outlet Tomiyasu gave a decent account of himself. Still a lot more reserved than Tierney, of course. That goes without saying.

Ignoring a usual left-sided bias, much of Arsenal’s attacking play was facilitated down the right side with Nicolas Pepe particularly lively in the first half.

Opting to stick with a two-man defence in possession with Ben White and Gabriel as the deepest options, Tomiyasu was allowed to feed passes infield that would move out to Pepe just as he sought to find him down the line on numerous occasions. There was a freedom to his play that still fell within the strict borders of Arteta’s vision.

He brought tactical variance to Arsenal’s play. Something sorely missed.

Kieran Tierney would often adopt the widest of the five lanes but the changes in point of attack, due to Tomiyasu’s versatility, meant that Arsenal could build up differently: tucking into midfield, dropping off in a back three and occasionally providing overlapping width to Pepe, his debut encompassed a plethora of desirable aspects.

Arsenal weren’t confined to predictable progression and while there was a noticeable drop off from the team midway through first half as passes went astray, Tomiyasu’s skillset means Arsenal can find routes to the final in a variety of ways. It was refreshing to see on Saturday.

As an actual debut, however, it was a brilliant afternoon for the new No. 18.


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