Tomiyasu, more than just depth

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Morning all, welcome to a brand new week.

It is very, very quiet from an Arsenal perspective. I see Germany manager Hansi Flick got, well, the flick, after losing 4-1 to Japan. Obviously I don’t really care about that at all, but I did see some Takehiro Tomiyasu compilations doing the rounds – there’s one here on Reddit, for example.

He’s a player I’ve liked since his arrival from Bologna, and it’s interesting (kinda) to note, that as we bemoaned the sad injury to Jurrien Timber, we had already bought a version of him previously. An accomplished defender who can play across the back-line, who adds quality and versatility. The kind of player who gives you depth, but who is certainly good enough to be a starter.

Of course, in order to do that you have to be available, and in his two seasons with Arsenal, Tomi has had some injury issues. In his first season he came into the team and did really well until around Christmas time, then missed a big chunk with a calf injury. Perhaps we brought him back a bit too soon, he limped his way through the end of the campaign, but got fit and played 33 times before the knee injury that ended his campaign last season.

In that sense, while he has definitely had injuries, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say he is injury prone, per se. The knee problem he sustained against Sporting was a bit of a freak, he slipped, his knee went. It happens. I think he is different from the kind of player who sustains repetitive injuries in one specific area. Hamstring, groin, ‘back’ etc.

He spoke earlier this year about how the absences from the team had made him lose confidence a bit, not least because Ben White came in was so effective at right-back. He said:

Yes, it was a difficult period for me. Ben White was doing very well and to be honest I lost confidence. But the injury period was four months and I think about a lot of things in this time.

You need to learn from the injuries, also the mistakes. You have good and bad moments, but you need to learn a lot of things from the bad moments. Now I am feeling good, not only for my body, my head also. It’s all positive.

His start to the season obviously hasn’t been ideal, but the red card against Crystal Palace was ridiculously soft in my view. That meant he missed the game against Fulham which required Mikel Arteta to pick a different left-back for the third successive game. I suspect he would have started if he hadn’t been suspended, and hopefully a performance like the one against Germany, and the competitive minutes during the Interlull, will stand him in good stead when he returns.

The question is, how hard can he push for regular starts now? We all love Ben White; the Saliba/Gabriel partnership looks a difficult one to disrupt, although for the first time Arteta has demonstrated the Brazilian isn’t untouchable; while the return of Oleksandr Zinchenko means he’s likely to start on the left as long as he’s fit (but he is a player who fits the injury prone tag better than Tomiyasu, to be fair).

The demands of the Premier League and the Champions League mean the manager will have to change things around. I could be wrong, but Zinchenko doesn’t strike me as someone who can play every three/four days on a consistent basis, so I think we might see a bit of Tomiyasu there. Whether that’s in Europe or domestically might depend on the opposition, and like it not there will be absences for injury/suspension that he is first in line to cover for.

When asked about where he’d prefer to play, he said:

I just want to be on the pitch. I want to play as much as I can and help the team. Which position, I don’t care. I haven’t spoken to the manager about it, I don’t know. I just want to help the team.

His ability to play in every defensive position certainly increases his chances of playing, and while the injury to Timber is a big blow, I think Tomiyasu’s quality is a bit of a safety net. Let’s hope he can stay fit, not just to provide depth or cover, but to really push those around him. Sometimes it’s hard to see exactly where a player fits, but over the course of a season things become more clear, and I have a feeling we’ll see that with Tomiyasu as time goes by.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. James and I will have an Arsecast Extra for you a little later on this morning. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

For now, have a good one.