After what some would call a below-par season, the Gunners have had a decent start to their 2021-22 campaign.
Questions were asked of the Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, who requested the fans to be patient and believe in his project.
However, Arteta seems to have turned things around since those three losses, and Arsenal are now on an eight-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.
With no European football, some would suggest a trimmed-down squad to ensure consistent performances throughout the season. However, the intensity and competitiveness of the Premier League can lead to several injuries to the players. It is, therefore, essential to hold on to a well-rounded squad to ensure players are not missed when injured.
Arsenal’s players have been famously prone to injuries over the years. More recently, key players like Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney have missed out on large parts of the season due to injury concerns.
The Gunners spent roughly £142 million in the transfer market during the summer to improve their squad. It seemed intriguing to see the inclusion of six players, given Arsenal could offer no European football this season. Amongst the lot, a few were to play as squad players and contribute when the time came.
Nuno Tavares was one such acquisition, brought in as a backup option for the ever-willing Kieran Tierney at left-back. The Scotsman has suffered from various injury issues during his time at the club, and his absence was definitely felt during the previous campaign, when an appropriate replacement could not be found.
However, Tavares, a Portugal international, has been like a duck to water when allowed to start in games for Arsenal.
Tavares has started every Arsenal game in the Premier League since Tierney was dropped due to an injury against Aston Villa. He has seamlessly managed to fill in Tierney’s boots at left-back and has mimicked the high position that the Scotland international generally takes up.
Tavares has shown his attacking instincts and has already registered seven shots this season with just three starts. His driving runs from left-back into the centre of the field have encouraged several fans to get behind him. His defensive side seems assuring as well; he has contributed massively to Arsenal’s two clean sheets in the last three games.
Another one of those in the injury list whose name keeps featuring is Thomas Partey. The central midfielder from Ghana has suffered a couple of injury setbacks since his arrival in London.
Partey was excluded from Arsenal’s squad against Watford on Sunday due to a groin issue. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was chosen to step into midfield for him. With Xhaka injured, Arsenal had to throw in their fourth-choice central midfielder to get the job done.
The young Englishman proved worthy, though, and ended up with the Man of the Match award on Sunday. He contributed by winning possession more than any other player on the pitch — a stunning nine times during the game. He also contributed the most number of tackles for his team.
Arteta will be more than delighted to know that his third- and fourth-choice midfielders are more than capable of doing the job. Albert Sambi Lokonga, presumably the third choice in central midfield, has become a fan favourite and has started every Premier League game since Xhaka’s injury.
With Alexandre Lacazette becoming a favourite to start, Martin Ødegaard is also proving to be a more-than-capable player to slot into the number 10 position from the bench. He, too, was set to make a mark in the game against Watford having come off the bench, until his goal-bound shot was tapped into the net by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was unfortunately offside.
The ongoing international break could not have come at a better time for Arsenal, as it allows the team to re-group and bring back some injured players. However, the depth of the squad has shown through, and the Gunners look set to challenge Liverpool once club football returns with a trip to Anfield.