Arsenal received a rare blip in their bid to earn a top-four spot and qualify for next season’s Champions League when they lost to Liverpool on Wednesday evening.
The Gunners played some exceptional football, largely keeping the Merseyside outfit at bay until some sloppy defensive work cost them dearly in the second half.
Mikel Arteta has put a great deal of time and effort into improving the Arsenal defence so it will have come as a huge source of frustration for the Spaniard that his side lost as they did.
The Londoners now face Aston Villa on Saturday lunchtime after a small recovery window, but they have been dealt a fresh setback as they look to overcome the Villans.
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Arsenal have been without Japanese defender Takehiro Tomiyasu for the best part of two months and sadly, it looks as though he will miss this weekend’s clash too.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Arteta seemed hopeful that he might return, saying:
“There is a chance, but we don’t know, again today [Friday] in training we will see how he’s feeling.”
News has since emerged that he may not have come through training too well. According to AFC News Room founder, Connor Humm, he will miss the clash.
He took to Twitter to reveal the following: “No Takehiro Tomiyasu in the squad to face Aston Villa as far as I’m aware.
Cedric has rarely put a foot wrong since covering for Tomiyasu over the last few months, with his form subsequently earning a call-up to the Portugal squad for the latest round of international fixtures.
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Indeed, the former Southampton full-back has recorded a SofaScore match rating below a 6.8 on one occasion since he became a regular in the starting XI at the beginning of February.
Even against Liverpool in midweek he dealt with Luis Diaz with relative ease, as the January signing was taken off after just 58 minutes having managed zero shots or key passes and completing just 50% of his dribbles.
Yet, Cedric’s physicality and suitability to Arsenal’s sturdy defence is traditionally a worry and as the race for the top four hots up, getting Tomiyasu back will be a huge boost to their chances.
The 23-year-old has been one of the biggest surprise packages of the season for Arsenal, with his reliability and consistency in the team second to very few.
According to WhoScored, the Japan international has won more aerial duels per game (2.7) than anyone else in Arteta’s ranks while he also tops the chart for tackles per match on 1.9. Furthermore, of those to play on more than two occasions in the top-flight this term, only Ben White has racked up more than Tomiyasu’s 1.2 interceptions per outing.
With that in mind, it’s abundantly clear how big a loss Tomiyasu has been and with Villa possessing tricky players like Jacob Ramsey and Philippe Coutinho, he’d have been the perfect foil. Arteta will no doubt be sitting on the team bus rather gutted today.
AND in other news, Arteta has unlocked Arsenal’s own Harry Kane in £46.5m gem who’s “bringing the fire”…