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3 Areas for Nuno Tavares to improve as he aims to become an Arsenal regular

What a pleasant surprise. Amid a summer of extensive recruitment and numerous outgoings, of all the names in the spotlight it was Nuno Tavares’ that had received the least amount of dialogue.

Being the first of all six arrivals played its part, but it was also due to the importance of the position: other additions were more closely knocking on the first team door while the current left-back was a starting lineup stalwart.

Nuno was nonetheless a vital addition. Kieran Tierney’s injury problems and the rather glaring absence of someone other than Sead Kolasinac in the position meant another body was needed to share the minutes.

It was never thought to be a 50/50 split, as forced absences and cup matches were to be Nuno’s bread and butter for not only this season, but many seasons to come. After all, Tierney penned a shiny new contract after the Euros running until 2026.

3 areas for Nuno Tavares to improve as he aims to become an Arsenal regular ahead of Kieran Tierney in Mikel Arteta’s team

A consistent performer throughout last season, to be having the discussion that is ongoing is testament to just how well Nuno has been playing, and how underpar the Scotsman has been so far this term.

Discussions will rage on about who is deserving of a spot in the team after two excellent outings for the 21-year-old while Tierney has been absent with a bruised ankle. Who warrants the left-back slot isn’t the topic of discussion here, though.

The Portuguese defender has looked extremely impressive of late. Exceptional athleticism, neat technical ability and an aggression at both ends of the pitch have been highlights of his displays, the like of which has come as a hugely welcome bonus.

Competition is imperative across all areas of the pitch and how quickly Nuno has taken to Premier Leaguefootball having been sat on the Benfica bench for much of his young career is hugely encouraging, not least with Arsenal seeking to secure a European berth in the league table and possible silverware in the Carabao and FA Cups.

Still young and with plenty of developing to do, there are three aspects of his game that Nuno needs to be looking at as he aims to make his current run of minutes more frequent.

1. Decision Making

Nuno may be in this conversation but questionable decision making in certain areas of the pitch affects far more than just him. Emile Smith Rowe still falls foul to the occasional brain fart in the final third.

Young players are the more common culprits of this particular element of the game, and knowing teammates more, understanding the flow of matches and better understanding the tactical demands placed on you by the manager can all help fine-tune decision making.

At present Nuno can cause the occasional eyebrow to raise, as he can some faint groans.

He’s learning and improving with each minute but looking back on his performances with the video analysts, as he will be doing, some of the choices he makes in possession will be singled out.

When in promising positions in the final third he can let his youth take over and instead of threading a pass into a player running in behind he’ll have a pop at goal, and vice versa.

With experience comes clarity of thought. Considering how well he’s playing and how he already looks improved from his early outings, it’s something he’s sure to start tinkering with in a positive way.

2. The Simple Aspects

Watching him charge up and down the left flank with unstoppable energy, his carries with possession are the kind that get supporters up off their seats.

Two-touching his way around a marker and bursting into space as he does, with power in his strides and neat control, are not elements that can necessarily be taught. Improved, yes, but not taught. So much of it is his natural strength and physicality.

It’s also a hard skill to pull off. Which is why it’s interesting to see how Nuno can sometimes be found lacking in what would otherwise be known as ‘the simple things’.

These aren’t big criticisms of him. Almost everyone at 21 years old with just 50 first team appearances under his belt is going to be far from the finished article. In Nuno’s case, it’s an area of his game to improve, not lambaste.

But he is guilty of doing some of the easier aspects a bit…sluggishly. There are five yard passes he sometimes takes too lackadaisically, either falling short of finding their man or being overhit.

Perhaps these small errors in possession are the byproduct of being so vibrant and bursting with life all the time. Going 100 miles an hour across the grass could make its way into his actions and he might just need to slow down a touch.

3. Improving End Product

When Nuno was signed from Benfica, or at least when the news first emerged, one of the standout features from his time with the Lisbon club was the strength of his crossing.

Given how effective Tierney is from wide deliveries it was a trait that offered another indication that he was being brought in as a similar profile who could come in and allow Arsenal to maintain their attacking principles without having to adjust to a different style.

His crossing hasn’t quite been there (with consistency, it must be added) but seeing how impressive it was with Benfica offers strong assurances that it’s a matter of time before he begins replicating that with The Arsenal.

In terms of his shooting, he’s attempted six in the Premier League this season with only one hitting the target for a npxG of 0.2, which shows his willingness to have a pop even when the time may not call for it. There are players in the team with a worse SoT% – Tierney being one of them.

Netting on his non-competitive debut in the 2-2 draw with Rangers – with his right foot no less, which has been proven not to be in any way a weakness – offered an exciting glimpse into his shooting potential. It’s a skill he definitely possesses but hasn’t quite been as sharp since. Again, like miscuing some of the simpler passes, sometimes he just needs to set himself more and avoid doing everything at light speed.

On the whole, however, what has been seen from Nuno is hugely encouraging. Calls from him to keep his place in the starting lineup even when Tierney returns aren’t without merit, and the three areas to tweak are merely stages in his development to work on, not big criticisms of his ability.

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