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Keep, Loan, Sell: What Do Arsenal Do With Nuno Tavares?

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Keep, Loan, Sell: What Do Arsenal Do With Nuno Tavares?

At a relatively-nominal £7.5 million fee, the signing of Nuno Tavares from Benfica was met with little furore across a free-spending summer for Arsenal which saw the Gunners go big for the likes of Benjamin White, Martin Ødegaard and Aaron Ramsdale.

Fast-forward 12 months, however, and the full back has certainly found a way to get his name on the agenda, but not always for the best reasons.

Signed as a mere deputy to Kieran Tierney, with the rarity of no European football pencilled in throughout his debut season in England, Tavares still managed to find himself in action a surprising 28 times as his predecessor at left back succumbed to injury.

The Portuguese full-back burst onto the scene with positive performances, later followed by a fleet of worrisome displays down the final stretch of the season.

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Now standing as a figure that divides opinion amongst Arsenal’s faithful, the North Londoners are left to quiz themselves on how best to assist their young import’s development. So what exactly does the immediate future hold for Tavares?

Potential Stay

For all the criticism levelled at the full-back, his strengths haven’t gone unnoticed and form part of the reason why it’s so difficult to judge what his boss Mikel Arteta will do with him come the start of the new season.

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Tavares’ rawness is well-documented, but so is his frightening pace and physical capabilities on the ball - often the highlight throughout his purple patch in the red & white of Arsenal. His attributes make him a useful tool for Arteta to toy with, particularly on the counter.

The number of games this season will also see an increase with the recent Europa League qualification, of which Arsenal will be expecting a deep run in, and the oncoming pile-up of fixtures ahead of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, held in December. 

With fears looming once again over Tierney’s fitness, a hectic schedule strengthens the argument to keep the versatile Tavares at the club, even with the arrival of extra competition for the Portuguese man at left-back.

After a turbulent arrival, Arteta and co. will also have to keep a watchful eye on the ex-Benfica man’s confidence, brought into the limelight after a handful of early substitutions against the likes of Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace.

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If the coaching staff do, indeed, back the talent they forked out £7.5 million for, the next steps taken could have a lasting effect on the player’s delicate morale.

Loan Switch

Realistically, with the potential arrival of a new left back, such as Bologna’s Aaron Hickey, Arsenal would be looking to move one of their three left-sided defenders out, with Tavares standing as the weakest link.

For now, that may not be a bad thing for the man in question, who could benefit greatly from a spell away from the spotlight projected constantly onto the Emirates Stadium outfit.

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The Gunners will have to do their homework here, however, with the player’s spirits, off the back of a complicated end to the season, being a genuine cause for concern.

Tavares’ next move, should it be on a loan, will have to be one that predominantly plays to his strengths with a means for the player to grow spiritually, as well as challenging his shortcomings, more centred around the defensive side of his game.

As mentioned before, with the sheer volume of games awaiting Arsenal until December, Arteta may just be tempted to hold onto his 2021 summer acquisition in the knowledge that a loan move can always be found once the winter market comes about, but as a counter-argument, it may also be best to define a fresh purpose for the player coming into the season and allow him to soak up the benefits of pre-season.

Sell

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In what may well come across as a fairly rash decision to take, the prospect of making Tavares walk is not as improbable as some may think.

His struggles with the defensive side of his game have been laid bare, with the full-back acting as somewhat of a weak-link and starting, even as a bit-part player, in seven of Arsenal’s 13 losses all season.

A winger in his formative years, Tavares was quickly converted into a full-back in his Benfica days, but the 22-year-old never really managed to convince the on-lookers as a flat-out defender in Portugal either.

With his craft further forward lacking in his initial venture, his defensive shortcomings leave Tavares somewhere in between - in the mould of a wing-back with three centre backs to cover and allow him to maraud.

If that’s the Arsenal number 20 at his best, then the Gunners have some questions to ask themselves, as Arteta associates himself with a back four more and more.

At £7.5 million, Tavares was a gamble, but a calculated one who perhaps wasn’t expected to feature as much as he did.

The Premier League club should have no fear in biting the bullet if they have to, with the wing-back, holding international credentials at youth level, still young enough to be sculpted by any other potential suitor.

There’s a project out there for Tavares, away from the scolding pressures of English football.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, Kieran Tierney

Patrick Ribeiro
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