Arsenal have simple Nuno Tavares decision to make

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: Nuno Tavares of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park on April 4, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: Nuno Tavares of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park on April 4, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images) /

Arsenal face Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday and the pressure on the team has rarely been this intense. It’s palpable. From the highs of five consecutive away victories, suddenly panic is setting.

When you see Chelsea lose 4-1 at home to Brentford it once again puts into perspective how unpredictable this league can be. Arsenal were comfortably beaten by Crystal Palace, yet on another day one of the visitors’ chances go in and the tables turn.

It’s happened now and there is no going back, with the most damaging aspect of the whole game being the injuries to Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey. Those were matters beyond Arsenal’s control.

The steps Mikel Arteta takes from here could salvage the season or compound its difficulty. There is talk of an entire change of shape, moving the team’s best forward into left-back or switching full-backs across, all of which dance around the idea of keeping Nuno Tavares in the team.

Arsenal vs Brighton: Mikel Arteta has a simple Nuno Tavares decision to make as the left-back should be straight back in the starting lineup

He should be straight back into the starting lineup. Absolutely no question about it.

His return to the side against Crystal Palace was a continuation of the performance he showed at Nottingham Forest back in March – his last start for the club – where he was atrocious and lasted just 35 minutes. He made it half-time, this time.

The autopsy of both goals had his fingerprints all over it, and while Gabriel had a hand and footprint on them too, the role Nuno played was one of uncertainty. Physically he was weak on the night and positionally he got caught napping.

Seeing that display in isolation, it’s hard to make a case for him being usable. But this season has shown what he can produce. The fans and Arteta were blown away with his performances earlier in the season, calling for him to keep his place over the very man whose injury has sent everyone into meltdown.

Apart from his mistakes in the goals, what we saw in south London was a more reserved Nuno. The usual bite and panache he has was missing, likely as he tried to settle himself into the game, and it’s become a theme in his away performances. He needs that back.

On the road his technical level sinks. This Saturday’s game is not on the road, it’s at home to a side with one point and one goal in their last seven Premier League matches. If ever there was a time to show faith in him and help him build his confidence back up then you couldn’t pick a much kinder fixture.

With Brighton’s wing-backs there will be spaces to attack into, and while Granit Xhaka or Sambi slotting into left-back to cover is a tactical quirk we’d hoped have been moved away from, this is the situation now and if a 4-2-3-1 adds some solidity in Tierney and Partey’s absence then it is needs must. It’s the smallest tweak to the system.

Most importantly of all, getting Nuno back up to speed and comfort is for the benefit of the whole team. Of all the options being looked at he’s the only one who is actually a left-back. This time last season there wasn’t a spare option, so now there is one who can come in and allow Arsenal to avoid deviating too greatly from the system and approach that has been key in the huge upturn in form since December.

If the team and coaching staff can rally behind him, support him, work with him and help him overcome the inexperience that has impacted his recent form then Arsenal have solved their problem with the easiest, and most logical, solution.

It might not be pretty on Saturday, and if it’s another horror show then seek other solutions. But for the sake of the team and the player, him being given the vote of confidence to start is best for all.

Don't doubt Arsenal Football Club. dark. Next

He has to play. Arsenal have to play him through this. Don’t reconfigure the team, don’t pull players out of position and damage other areas of the pitch. Arsenal supporting Nuno means them supporting the whole team. We need him in the Premier League.