Despite one or two gaps of concern remaining within the Arsenal squad, it’s safe to say that Mikel Arteta’s options were improved to a certain extent over the summer. Granted, the team is still one body away from fulfilling the Spaniard’s target of having 22 outfield players, but it’s an improvement from last season.
The likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fabio Vieira, in particular, have provided much-needed support whilst the impressive versatility of Ben White has somewhat eased concerns at right-back. A number of injury problems for Takehiro Tomiyasu in recent months meant Cedric Soares was often called upon, but a lack of consistency from the former Southampton man led to a noticeable dip in quality.
William Saliba’s return has given Arteta a welcome solution for his full-back troubles, with the 21-year-old coming straight in as the right-sided centre-half alongside Gabriel Magalhaes. This has enabled White to fill in at right-back in the meantime, a position he has taken up before.
Although the backline is looking strong and operating well so far, the changes have resulted in a lack of minutes for Tomiyasu, who has started on the bench in all six league matches he’s been available for this season. A combination of Saliba and White’s impressive form, along with a lack of fitness at the start of the campaign, has left Arteta little choice but to leave out the Japan international.
Tomiyasu has since spoken out on the challenges he has and still is facing today but reiterates his hunger to win back his place in the side. “What is required in this league is quite high and I’m not satisfied,” he said. “When you look at the players selected as starters in the Premier League games, you will understand what is required to be there. I will work hard in order to get my position back.”
Fortunately for Arsenal, it’s almost certain that the best is yet to come from Tomiyasu despite the setbacks and Arteta has the perfect way to utilise him moving forward. Tomiyasu can comfortably operate as a full-back or central defender on either side thanks to his ability to use both feet. We were reminded of this during the win at Brentford after he appeared to be getting ready to replace Gabriel who was struggling with an injury.
Speaking after the game, Arteta hinted that it would have been a like-for-like replacement, citing Tomiyasu’s role with the Japan national team. “Tomi has been playing left centre-back for his national team Japan. So we have the options there, and we have to utilise them in the best possible way,” he explained. “Especially with the number of minutes we are going to have in the next few weeks, and it’s great that players are comfortable doing more than one position.”
Possessing great talent and versatility at the age of 23, Tomiyasu has every chance to play a crucial role in this Arsenal team, now and in the future. We’ve already seen the levels that he is capable of reaching when fit and if he can stay injury-free, nobody should underestimate his potential.