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Arsenal Season Recap: Nuno Tavares

The young left back had an up and down year.

Arsenal v Everton - Premier League Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Nuno Tavares joined Arsenal over the summer from Porto for £7.2M. The 22-year old left back had an up and down campaign, with the lows registering lower than the highs. If you were to look back at any of his performances, you’d see clear flashes of potential and brilliance, which is (presumably) why the club bought him. You’d also see simple, basic mistakes that demonstrate that he’s very much a work in progress and still has plenty of room and need to develop.

Season Summary: Tavares made a surprising (at least to me) 13 Premier League starts this year with 9 additional substitute appearances. He appeared 5 times in the Carabao Cup and once in the FA Cup. The low point of his season came in the FA Cup match against Nottingham Forest, where he was substituted off after 35 minutes. He was also substituted at half time of the Premier League match against Crystal Palace in April.

I think he was actually better down the stretch than most people gave him credit for. Once he got a consistent run of games, he settled in a bit and cut back on the mistakes. He still made a few, but they weren’t the near-backbreaking type that he was making earlier in the season.

Season Grade: C-

I wavered between a “C” and adding that minus onto the grade. He was a young, backup left back spending his first season in England after all, how much could reasonably be expected of him?

Arsenal need more than they got from Tavares from their backup left back, and I think a Premier League average backup would have made fewer mistakes than Tavares did (although I’ll admit that’s a pretty wishy-washy, tough-to-quantify standard). And to be fair, that imaginary backup probably wouldn’t have given the Gunners as much as Tavares did going forward, either. But I can’t get past the feeling that Tavares was just a bit disappointing this year.

‘22-’23 Outlook: It’s not clear whether Tavares will be with the Gunners next season or whether he’ll go out on loan. I see merit with both paths. If he stays, he’s the starter for the six Europa League group stage matches and the domestic cup contests, at least up to a certain stage. He’s also an alright backup for Kieran Tierney. If he improves this offseason, which you’d expect him to, he could be a perfectly acceptable backup next season.

If he were to go out on loan, it would presumably be to a club where he’d be either first choice or part of a rotation as opposed to the clear backup he’d be at Arsenal. There were rumors linking him with a move to Atalanta earlier in the summer but that move seems to have fallen apart. The Serie A side wanted a loan with an option to buy. Arsenal wanted a straight sale of €40M or a dry loan. He’s more recently been linked with a loan to Marseille.

I’m still very excited by Nuno Tavares. His ability to burst forward, both the physical aspects like pace and explosive quickness and his instinct for picking the right spots, is a skill that few players possess. He’s a willing dribbler and can strike the ball with plenty of venom. In short, he has plenty of good tools that could make him into an impact player.

He needs to eliminate the simple mistakes and work on the defensive side of the ball, although he’s a solid enough tackler right now. With maturation, development, and smoothing around the edges, he could become a heck of a player in a few years. It’s easy to see why Arsenal bought him. The potential is there, but he needs work.