Takehiro Tomiyasu joined Arsenal on Deadline Day from Bologna for a £16M fee plus addons and bonuses. The Japanese right back hit the ground running, instantly improving the defense and surprising nearly everybody with his solid, mistake-free play. He wasn’t a flashy addition, but for my money, he should be in the conversation for signing of the season in the Premier League. He had that much of a positive impact, especially when you consider the mess Arsenal would have been in without him.
Season Summary: When healthy, Takehiro Tomiyasu was one of the first names on the teamsheet for Arsenal this season. He’s just such a solid, strong all-around defender. He’s really good in the air (99th percentile for aerial duels won), rarely gets dribbled past (only 14 times all season), and is strong in a tackle.
Injuries limited him in the second half of the season, unfortunately. He picked up a calf injury in January and may have come back too quickly to play in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal against Liverpool. Shortly after that match, he injured his other calf, which kept him out of the lineup for two months. He also missed the final game of the season with a hamstring injury.
I’ll come back to the same stat that I shared in the Kieran Tierney recap — the preferred back four of Ben White, Gabriel, Tierney, and Tomiyasu conceded just 0.8 goals per game. Over a full season, that pace would have placed Arsenal third-best in the Premier League. The issue is that the preferred back four only managed 10 matches together because of injuries to Tierney and Tomiyasu. They need to stay fit and available!
Season Grade: B+
Tomiyasu’s grade is kept from being an “A-” (or perhaps even higher) by the injuries that kept him out for a chunk of the late winter / early spring. Tomi suffered two separate calf injuries back-to-back that forced him to miss multiple months. Other than the missed matches, Tomiyasu checks all the boxes for high marks. He had a great season.
‘22-’23 Outlook: Tomiyasu will be the Arsenal starting right back next season (and beyond). His defensive responsibility, solidity, and ability to lock down the right side without much help from the midfield enables the players in front of him, especially Bukayo Saka, to spend less time defending. In the current Arsenal setup, Tomiyasu isn’t asked to get forward as much as Kieran Tierney does on the other side of the pitch. That said, Tomi could develop his attacking abilities a bit. He’s fine on the ball and will get forward when the opportunity presents calls, but it’s an unremarkable aspect of his game. There is room for improvement.