Mikel Arteta must solve left-back dilemma to prevent Arsenal’s season unravelling


From Selhurst Park – It was not quite as bad as when he was dragged off after 34 minutes against Nottingham Forest in January but Nuno Tavares’ performance as Arsenal were played off the park by Crystal Palace on Monday night will have been even more concerning for Mikel Arteta.

Right from the outset, it was clear that the 22-year-old, drafted in for the injured Kieran Tierney, was extremely uncomfortable.

Even when pitted against Jordan Ayew – starting his first Palace game since February – Tavares was manic in his defending, flaying his limbs around almost at random as his opponents streamed past him. Positionally, things were equally suspect.

The low watermark of his defensive display was the part he played in Palace’s opening goal. While he was not the only Arsenal player at fault here, with the usually flawless Gabriel retracting his head like a shy tortoise at exactly the wrong time, Tavares should have and could have done much more to prevent Joachim Andersen no-look heading the ball into goalscorer Jean-Philippe Mateta’s path.

Unfortunately for the youngster his struggles were not confined to his own half either. Whenever he ventured forward, his passes rarely found their mark with one inadvertently kick-starting one of many dangerous Palace counter-attacks. In addition, not a single one of his four long balls forward found their mark.


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