The defender overcame two injury scares before and during Arsenal’s win over Brentford to help the Gunners keep a clean sheet in west London.
Arsenal enjoyed a 3-0 win over Brentford on Sunday afternoon to reclaim top spot from Manchester City in the Premier League table, but they had to overcome a major injury scare in doing so.
Shortly after William Saliba broke the deadlock in west London as he got above Ivan Toney to glance a header from Bukayo Saka’s corner into the net, his central defensive partner Gabriel Magalhaes went down requiring treatment for what appeared to be an issue with his right calf.
At one point it seemed that the Brazilian wouldn’t be able to continue for Arsenal as he immediately fell to the ground with both hands on his head and crucially, the cameras showed he may have done more damage to his calf after pulling up during the pre-match warm-up with a complaint in the exact same area.
With Rob Holding amongst the substitutes, the natural assumption would have been him replacing Gabriel as the Gunners’ left-sided central defender slotting in alongside Saliba. However, it was rather telling that Takehiro Tomiyasu was the one told to warm up in case a change was needed.
Of course, in this scenario, the Japan international could have replaced the Brazilian and taken up his familiar role at right-back with Ben White returning to the heart of defence after being pushed out wide following Saliba’s return to the club and the Frenchman’s impressive form this season.
But interestingly, Mikel Arteta has already talked up the 23-year-old as a possible backup option for Gabriel: “[Tomiyasu] can play central defender as well. Tomi has been playing left centre-back for the Japan national team, when you look at his games, he is great,” the Spaniard said during his pre-Brentford press conference on Friday afternoon.
“He can play as a left-back because you could not tell if he’s a right or left-footed player. So, we have the options there and we have to utilise them in the best possible way, especially with the number of minutes we’re going to have in the next few weeks. It’s great that players are comfortable in more than one position.”
These comments and the fact Tomiyasu was told to warm up instead of Holding when Gabriel required treatment against Brentford could be the clearest ‘confirmation’ yet that the £18m signing from Bologna in the summer of 2021 is now the back-up left-sided centre-back option.
It’s no secret that Arteta prefers a natural left-footer in this role and following the decision to let Pablo Mari join Monza on loan in the summer transfer window, it appeared Gabriel was to be without much competition for his place in the side.
Yet Tomiyasu’s two-footedness and experience of playing as the left-sided central defender for his national team means he can be the perfect option to replace the Arsenal no.6 when he needs a breather and with a hectic run of games coming up in October, it’s something that could happen especially in the Europa League.
Fortunately for the Gunners, Gabriel was able to continue against the Bees and not being selected for international duty this month should give him extra time to fully recover from the calf issue that was clearly bothering him ahead of the North London Derby against Tottenham.