Mikel Arteta’s big change with Nuno Tavares can save Arsenal millions in summer transfer window

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Nuno Tavares has had an interesting debut season at Arsenal, to say the least. Signed from Benfica last summer to act as cover for Kieran Tierney at left-back, he is now poised to play a vital role as Mikel Arteta looks to bring Champions League football back to the club.

Although, it’s not too long ago when it appeared the Portugal U21 international was fighting for his Gunners future never mind a place in the starting line-up after being hauled off in the first half on his only two starts in 2022 against Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace.

Furthermore, after being overlooked in favour of Granit Xhaka in the 2-1 loss at home to Brighton – with Tierney ruled out for the rest of the season nonetheless – it was suggested that games against Southampton, Chelsea and Manchester United were going to have major implications for Tavares ahead of the summer transfer window.

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If the player signed as cover for Tierney couldn’t get a start at St Mary’s when the first-choice left-back was absent, and the situation did not change for games against Chelsea and Man United, it would have only brought about questions regarding Tavares’ future and if a decision to sell him this summer had quietly been made.

Of course, the 22-year-old has been restored to the line-up for the aforementioned trio of games which may all but confirm he has a future in north London and those decisions also back-up Arteta’s explanation about substituting the defender against Forest and Palace for his own good.

“Obviously I speak with the players and I spoke with Nuno because I care a lot how they feel,” the Spaniard said. “We are to help them and make their careers better. That was a decision that hurt him obviously, but he understands that it was for the benefit of the team, that I believed it was for the benefit of the team. He respects that and now he needs to react to that situation because it’s a great opportunity to learn a lot in that period of your career.”

Since coming back into the side, it’s safe to say Tavares’ performances have been a massive talking point amongst supporters. Against Southampton, he appeared to be regaining his confidence, was somewhat at fault for Cesar Azpilicueta’s goal in the 4-2 win over Chelsea in an otherwise solid display, but was not at his best against Man United – and that’s despite getting on the scoresheet.

He was sloppy in possession at times, often picked the wrong option in the final third, struggled with the pace of Anthony Elanga, didn’t cover himself in glory for Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal and saw his blushes spared when Bruno Fernandes missed a penalty after he was punished for a needless handball in the area.

Overall, Tavares probably played worse against the Red Devils than he did against Forest and Palace, but the difference is he completed the full 90 minutes on Saturday and there was a moment that highlighted Arteta’s new stance with the left-back.

As spotted in Arsenal’s ‘Bench Cam’ video uploaded to YouTube, at around the 7.34 minute mark – after Xhaka had scored to make it 3-1 – the Spaniard pulled Tavares aside and appeared to be giving him a much-needed pep talk following a difficult period in the game for the defender.

Mikel Arteta gave Nuno Tavares a much-needed pep talk during Arsenal’s win over Man United. (Image: Arsenal/ YouTube)

Arteta did comment on Tavares’ performance against Man United during his post-match press conference and the big takeaway from his words as well as actions is that he’s changed his tune with the youngster and this in turn makes it unlikely that the Gunners will spend money on a replacement this summer.

“We have to help him. He needs to go through these experiences to understand what triggers these moments when you go from here to there,” Arteta said. “We know, and I’ve said this many times, the bill you have to pay with those players is that they’ve never experienced this. They are going to make mistakes and they are going to make decisions that from here it’s very easy to say ‘why have you done that?’. But that’s when we have to give them support because they need it.”

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