Upon arrival in North London, Nuno Tavares’ signing was viewed as a major coup for Arsenal considering the wealth of interest in the full-back.
“He will provide strong back-up in the left-back position,” said technical director Edu before adding: “We look forward to him growing and developing with us and becoming an important member of the first-team squad.” [Sky Sports]
Tavares, 22, went on to make 22 appearances in his maiden Premier League campaign with 13 coming from the start.
His playing time perhaps exceeds the expected amount and, on the surface, appears a decent return for a player with just 14 top-flight games on his resume prior to joining.
The stats, however, barely begin to tell the whole story of Tavares’ unorthodox first and potentially only season turning out for the Gunners.
1998 – Nuno Tavares is the first player whose first ever goal for Arsenal came against Manchester United since Fredrik Ljungberg in September 1998. Opportunistic. pic.twitter.com/iKdORfH5fd
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 23, 2022
Nuno Tavares: The imperfect blend of talent and volatility
Tavares’ attacking talent was evident from the outset. He can play off both feet, has the pace and power to trigger his side’s fluid build-up play and is a sweet striker of the ball.
The above are the hallmarks of a modern-day full-back with managers seemingly favouring forward-thinking representatives of the position which begs the question of why it hasn’t worked out up until this point.
Unsurprisingly, Tavares ranks highly among his counterparts in the Premier League in categories such as passing, dribbling along with goal and shot creation.
To name a few, according to FBRef, he is in the 91st percentile for progressive carries – another desirable these days – and 94th for shot-creating actions via both successful dribbles and defensive actions respectively.
The Benfica academy product’s attack-leaning profile is also evident in his defensive statistics.
Tackles and pressures in the final third are a strong suit while he also measures well for the number of times dribbled passed (97th percentile) but only has a ‘dribblers tackled’ percentage of 50% domestically in 2021/22.
How does Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta assess Nuno Tavares?
Tavares was afforded game time due to Kieran Tierney’s tarnished injury record but failed to provide reliable cover.
This led Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta to field midfielder Granit Xhaka out of position and in effect cost his side a chance of Champions League qualification.
Arteta favoured Xhaka after the defeat 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in which Tavares had a hand in the first two goals conceded. He came out second best in a duel with Joachim Andersen which saw the ball find Jean-Philippe Mateta and then exhibited lax marking before failing to cover teammate Gabriel’s mistake.
The performance led to Tavares being substituted at half-time and a consequent defeat to Brighton next time out which saw Xhaka’s growing presence in midfield sacrificed to cover for his teammate at full-back.
Speaking in the week succeeding the disappointing result at Selhurst Park, Arteta sought to deflect the criticism from his player.
“Throughout your career you have to go through difficult moments,” the Spaniard said in a pre-match press conference.
“He’s had some really good periods since he arrived at the club and he was playing many more minutes than he was probably expecting. That’s the life of a player, especially at that age.
“There’s ups and downs and we are here to try and help him and make his career better, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The latest on Nuno Tavares’ Arsenal future
Turning our attention to the fast-approaching 2022/23 campaign, there is doubt around Tavares’ whereabouts upon its start in August.
Viewed as the backup option ahead of last season, Arsenal are in the market for reinforcements at left-back with Bologna’s Aaron Hickey the name mentioned.
This seemingly spells out the precarious nature of Tavares’ future at the Emirates Stadium.
Initial reports suggested a season-long loan would be the chosen route with Serie A outfit Atalanta and Marseille of Ligue 1 the two teams interested.
The latter have emerged as frontrunners with French outlet Foot Mercato, as quoted by Get French Football News, stating an offer of a loan with an option to buy has been tabled.
The report goes on to state that Arsenal are yet to respond to the offer but are ‘open to the idea’ of Tavares leaving on a temporary basis.
Nuno Tavares lacks intangibles such as concentration, discipline and positional awareness which contribute to his oscillating form. Although, these are attributes that can improve with experience which owes to a loan being the best option for Arsenal.