Arsenal have been told to be wary of their full-backs when they face Tottenham in the North London derby, with Nuno Tavares isolated as a particular concern defensively. It comes as the two clubs are embroiled in a race to finish in the top four.
The Gunners currently hold the advantage in the battle, sitting fourth and one point ahead of Spurs in fifth, with one game in hand over them. However, there are still plenty of twists and turns left, with a clash between the two sides still to come.
Discussing the upcoming challenge, Mikel Arteta said in his pre-match press conference for Leeds: “For us, this is the defining moment of the season after everything we’ve done so we want to capitalise on what we’ve done in the last nine or 10 months.”
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One concern for the Spaniard before the end of the campaign will be his squad depth. Left-back Kieran Tierney is already confirmed to miss the rest of the season, while Thomas Partey is a doubt to return. The former is a particular concern, with Tavares struggling at times, while Granit Xhaka has also had to fill in on the flank. It’s the full-back positions that former Gunner Ray Parlour believes is a concern ahead of the North London derby.
Speaking on TalkSport, he said: “I worry about the full-back areas, Tierney is brilliant if he stays fit. He’s been injured quite often in an Arsenal shirt. Defensively, he’s [Tavares’] not the best if I’m being honest. He’s got to improve on that. He’s better in a three at the back, when he plays wing-back. But he’s vulnerable at left-back. And I’m sure Spurs will be saying, ‘Well OK, let’s play down the left-hand side and Tavares’.
“They might get a bit of joy down that side when they play them next Thursday.” Despite the struggles of the Portuguese full-back, who has had to be substituted on a few occasions this season due to his shaky performances, Arteta has called upon everyone to support him.
Last month, when discussing the youngster, he said: “We have to help him. He needs to go through these experiences to understand, OK what triggered that moment, when you go from here to there – and give him support.”
While his future could be bright, there is still work to be done and the Gunners cannot afford a slip up in the race for the top four. While he may be a concern defensively, what he offers going forward could be very handy to the side.