Tavares and Tierney are both fit – so should they play together vs Liverpool?

AS an Arsenal fan, it is a lovely position to be in, where you have two players that are superb in their role, vying to be the first choice. For a manager, in this case Mikel Arteta, it must be wonderful, and this is exactly what the Spaniard will face in the coming weeks, and […] ...

AS an Arsenal fan, it is a lovely position to be in, where you have two players that are superb in their role, vying to be the first choice.

For a manager, in this case Mikel Arteta, it must be wonderful, and this is exactly what the Spaniard will face in the coming weeks, and potentially seasons, with Kieran Tierney and Nuno Tavares.


Arsenal left-back Nuno Tavares has starred in the absence of Kieran Tierney[/caption]


Scotland international Tierney is fit to face Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday[/caption]

However, it is a genuine dilemma now for Arteta, as Tierney, arguably Arsenal’s most consistent performer in 2020-21, is now fit and available for the big test at Anfield after getting game time for Scotland.

Nuno Tavares has not only deputised well for the Scot, but he has been a star performer in a team that is fashioning a winning run with the new formation.

Indeed, Tierney had trained with the first team, after his most recent injury and was available for selection for the visit of Watford, yet only made the bench.

Being an old-fashioned fan, I am a firm believer in the old adage suggesting that you don’t change a winning team, but Tierney is a senior pro, in a young team lacking old heads.

This is a debate the whole Arsenal fanbase will be having in the pubs, on the pods and on the socials.

Not just what will Arteta do for the trip to face Liverpool, but beyond.


One possibility, in the short-term, and certainly when mindful of the rampant Liverpool attack, is to deploy both players in an altered 3-4-2-1 formation.

Playing Tierney, where he will have played for Scotland, at left centre-back, with Tavares operating on the left of a four-man midfield, must be an attractive option.

In this scenario, one of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette would sit it out, with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka playing behind the sole striker.

I actually like this idea for the Liverpool match, and for other tough away fixtures, but I am sure along with most fans, would not want the current hybrid, 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 system changed.

Therefore, Arteta will need to either decide on whether to restore Tierney, thank Tavares and ask that he bides his time, as he is still very young, or stick with the young, exciting Portuguese left-back.

There are many factors to consider when weighing up that decision and undoubtedly the most obvious argument will be, that if you are at a top club, there should be competition for places, and both will get their fair share of minutes.

Whilst I accept that, Arsenal currently do not have European football, so have less matches in which to offer real rotation.

Football, because of injuries, will always offer up opportunities to squad players and it is incumbent in them to grasp them.


Arsenal have conceded just once in the three games Tavares has started in the Premier League[/caption]

Smith Rowe and Saka have taken theirs and who is to say that Tavares has not done the same.

Arsenal fans will all remember the unlikely situation in 2014-15 when injury to Arteta saw Santo Cazorla drop in to centre-midfield, while Francis Coquelin was recalled from his loan spell at Charlton to deputise in the absence of the injured Aaron Ramsey.

Ramsey, on the back of his stellar 2013-14 campaign could not break the partnership up on this return and ended up on the right wing.

Tierney, on the back of two fabulous seasons, sadly shares another attribute with Ramsey, which will be a telling consideration for Arteta.

The Scot like, the Welsh midfielder, has an unenviable track record when it comes to injury.

He missed much his first season with Arsenal due to a shoulder issue and missed 16 matches in 2020-21, with a mixture of groin and knee problems.

Whilst he, along with Saka were the team’s stand out players, it was ultimately Tierney’s long spell out on the run in that cost Arteta’s team European football.

Obviously, it was the manager and board who failed to bring in left-back cover and opted to play Granit Xhaka there that were to blame, not the player, but it did highlight a serious issue to be addressed.

Tavares was brought in, for what now looks an absolute snip of a fee, to provide that quality cover for Tierney and he has done it so well.

The question is, has he done it too well, from Tierney’s perspective at least.

We have not seen Tierney in the new set up, as the tweak, with Lacazette, replacing Martin Odegaard happened in his absence, but before his injury he had looked jaded.

For too long the flying Scot had been Arsenal’s favourite route to attack, and other teams were getting wise to it.

I am fairly sure Arteta will give Tierney a run in the new structure, but it is certainly not the formality that he comes straight back in, as it would have been previously.

If Arsenal can progress, we will have more matches, with the FA Cup in the New Year, and hopefully Europe in the 22-23 campaign.


Arteta has a big decision to make over who starts against the Reds out of Tierney and Tavares[/caption]

Arteta should be able to keep both players relatively content if that is the case.

It brings to mind Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov at Manchester City between 2011 and 2014, with both players winning two Premier League titles as the ex-Gunner gradually passed on first team duties to the Serb.

Now that would be a lovely scenario would it not?

You can follow Dave Seager on Twitter @GoonerDave66.

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