Mikel Arteta says there was nothing personal in his decision to substitute Nuno Tavares on Monday, and hints the player could return to the side immediately.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta opted to take off Nuno Tavares at half-time of the match against Crystal Palace on Monday night, with the Gunners already 2-0 down at the time.
That decision followed a similar situation in Tavares’ last start against Nottingham Forest in January, when he came off after just 35 minutes of action.
Discussing the decision in his pre-Brighton press conference, Arteta denied there was anything personal in the call.
“Throughout your career, you have to go through difficult moments, and he’s had some really good periods since he arrived at the club and he was playing many more minutes than he was probably expecting,” Arteta began.
“That’s the life of a player, especially at that age. There’s ups and downs and we are here to try and help him and make his career better, and that’s what we’re going to do.
“He is ready and he is willing, and he will be disappointed, but it’s part of the job and we have to make decisions to try to win football matches. There is nothing personal there.”
Arteta went on to add that he’s had a conversation with Tavares since the substitution, and made it clear he was just trying to make the right call for the team on the day.
“Always I speak with the players and I spoke with Nuno because I care about how they feel,” Arteta confirmed. “We are here to help them and make their careers better.
“That was a decision that hurt him, obviously, but he understands that it was for the benefit of the team and he respects that. Now he needs to react to that situation because he has a great opportunity to learn a lot in that period of his career.”
On top of that mention of an “opportunity” to react for Tavares, Arteta said that the option of playing players out of position is “unlikely to happen”, suggesting Tavares may well retain his place in the side.
The only real alternative is to use Granit Xhaka there, which would be playing a player out of position. Even if Arteta is willing to do that on Saturday, Thomas Partey’s injury makes it more difficult to spare Xhaka from his usual role in midfield.
For Arsenal’s sake, the best outcome would be Tavares remaining in the team and rediscovering his best form, solving the problem without creating a new one.