The Portuguese left back has been highly criticised following his performance against Crystal Palace.
Palace’s first goal was his fault as he failed to challenge Joachim Anderson in the air. Their second came from a Gabriel mistake that he could have covered but was slow to react to.
Mikel Arteta pulled him at half time.
His previous start was the defeat against Nottingham Forest where he looked like a deer in headlights. After 35 minutes, he was taken off.
Tavares looked good in League Cup games against WBA and Wimbledon. But both were big victories where he was able to show his attacking prowess – he did very little defensively.
He then had a run in the Premier League team at the end of October and throughout November to mixed results.
Clean sheets against Leicester City, Watford and Newcastle were offset with conceding 4 against Liverpool and 3 against Manchester United.
The concern is Tavares has played well in games Arsenal dominate, but struggled when asked to defend.
Opponents will recognise he is vulnerable defensively and will begin to overload our left hand side in an attempt to expose him.
Would it be a risk starting him? Yes. But he is the reserve left-back and if he isn’t ready to step up at the age of 22-years-old, he should not be at Arsenal.
Re-shuffled back 4
If Arteta does not trust Tavares, he might opt to re-shuffle the back 4.
Ben White slotted into right back during the international break for England. It is a role he has played for Arsenal previously. We could then shift Cedric Soares to left back – a position he has also played for Arsenal. Rob Holding would then come into centre back.
That would leave us with: White Holding Gabriel Cedric.
It is a defence that might work, but would also be making 3 changes to cover 1 player out.
Had Takehiro Tomiyasu been fit, I would have been comfortable with Tomiyasu White Gabriel Cedric. But the Japanese full back is out until at least the Southampton game.
Re-shuffling the back 4 is an option, but it is perhaps too many changes.
Granit Xhaka at full back
A few have proposed Xhaka moving to left back from midfield. In 2020/21 he played there 6 times for Arsenal.
Moving Xhaka to left back is something we should avoid.
With Thomas Partey picking up an injury against Crystal Palace, Albert Sambi Lokonga will have to step up for a few games.
We need Xhaka’s experience in midfield alongside the Belgium 22-year-old.
Pushing Xhaka into left back and going with a midfield of Mo Elneny and Lokonga would fill me with dread.
This is a non option
Bukayo Saka at full back
12 months ago, this would have been the go to choice.
Saka was still making his was in the Arsenal team and was not as influential going forward as he currently is.
These days, Saka is our most important attacking threat.
Whilst he might shore up the defence, we would lose too much going forward.
Nicolas Pepe might be able to fill in on the right hand side, but I am not sure I would want to sacrifice what Saka brings.
We saw Arteta drop to a 3-4-3 formation in the run in to the FA Cup.
This could be an option if Arteta wants to shore up the defence whilst still giving Saka an attacking role.
Ben White, Rob Holding Gabriel would be the back 3, with Cedric Soares, Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey (or Lokonga if Partey is out) alongside Saka in midfield.
This would give us more defensive stability whilst also keeping Saka in a more attacking position.
The front 3 would then be Alexandre Lacazette and one of Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odergaard, Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel.