Nuno Tavares’ masterclass, William Saliba set for new Arsenal role as Bernd Leno’s stock drops


After what seems like a long international break, Premier League football returns to our screens this weekend.

Arsenal will be one of the final teams to take to the field in gameweek eight of the new season as they’re in action against London rivals Crystal Palace on Monday night.

Having not tasted defeat since August, Mikel Arteta‘s side will go in search of a result against the Eagles that extends their unbeaten run to six games across all competitions.

The Spaniard is likely to have a near full-strength squad for the game, with Granit Xhaka still the only long-term absentee after a dream fortnight for the Arsenal manager.

Players called up for international duty are beginning to filter back to the London Colney training ground ahead of the derby against Patrick Vieira’s side.

With the Gunners well represented during the break, there were always going to be contrasting experiences for several members of Arteta’s first-team squad.

But who were the winners and losers at Arsenal during the international break?

Well, football.london takes a look…

Winners

Nuno Tavares

A message to Arsenal’s first-choice left-back Kieran Tierney was sent loud and clear by Nuno Tavares last Friday as he was in fine form for the Portugal U21’s.

Of course, Portugal beating Liechtenstein at any level is to be expected, but it allowed the 21-year-old to showcase how useful he can be as an attacking force.

In an 11-0 win for the hosts, Tavares helped himself to a goal and weighed in with a couple of assists. A masterclass from an attacking full-back some may say.



Nuno Tavares opened the scoring for Portugal U21's in their 11-0 win over Liechtenstein U21's. (Image: YouTube)
Nuno Tavares opened the scoring for Portugal U21’s in their 11-0 win over Liechtenstein U21’s. (Image: YouTube)

He then played the full 90 minutes of a 1-0 win over Iceland four days later to round off a rather successful two weeks with the Portgual U21’s and give Arteta something to think about ahead of the Crystal Palace clash.

The £6.8m summer signing’s two starts so far this season have come in the Carabao Cup, with Tierney handling business when it comes to Premier League matters.

Although, the international break was certainly a reminder that Tavares isn’t at Arsenal to simply play second fiddle to the Scotland full-back for too long.

Emile Smith Rowe

The Arsenal no.10 has enjoyed an impressive start to the season and is now adding end product to his game.

If Emile Smith Rowe is to reach the next level, he will have to chip in with his fair share of goal contributions. So far he’s got two goals for the Gunners across all competitions and one assist this year.

And he’s now off the mark at international level after saving England U21’s blushes against Andorra on Monday evening.

That, coupled with an impressive display in a 2-2 draw with Slovenia, has made it a successful fortnight for Smith Rowe and may have done his chances of earning a senior call-up no harm when Gareth Southgate names his next squad.



Emile Smith Rowe scored the only goal of the game in England Under-21s' win over Andorra
Emile Smith Rowe scored the only goal of the game in England Under-21s’ win over Andorra

After all, the 21-year-old was close to being involved with the senior team this month.

“He is a player we like a lot and he was very close to making this squad,” Southgate confirmed. “We have brought a lot of youngsters up and that’s not always straightforward.

“At this moment in time, unless we need to, I don’t want to bring any more players from the Under-21s. They have to earn that right over a longer period.”

Mikel Arteta

No injuries would have been the dream scenario for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta when his players departed for the October international break.

And by the looks of things, those prayers have been answered ahead of his side’s return to Premier League action next Monday.

Arteta’s biggest concerns were likely to be around Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey given that the Arsenal pair have less than impressive injury records since arriving in north London.



Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta celebrates after beating Tottenham in the Premier League
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta celebrates after beating Tottenham in the Premier League

Luckily, the latter’s fitness worries seem to be behind him after playing 90 minutes in both of Ghana’s World Cup qualifiers. Meanwhile, Tierney also completed both of Scotland’s qualifiers.

As a result, it looks like Arteta’s near full-strength Arsenal squad is still intact as Xhaka remains the only long-term absentee.

Honourable mentions: Partey proved he does know where the goal is after netting in consecutive appearances for Ghana against Zimbabwe.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played a big role in keeping Gabon’s slim hopes of reaching the World Cup alive, Takehiro Tomiyasu helped Japan end Australia’s 11-game winning streak and Bukayo Saka impressed for England.

Whilst not at Arsenal this season, William Saliba captained France’s U21’s which potentially puts him in the frame to be part of Arteta’s leadership group upon his return next summer and Matteo Guendouzi tasted UEFA Nations League success with the senior side.

Losers

Gabriel Martinelli

This is not a slight on the Brazilian youngster, as by all accounts he impressed in a behind closed doors friendly win over Queens Park Rangers last week and has been waiting patiently for another chance in the Premier League.

However, Martinelli could be set to face more disappointment.

His last outing in the top flight of English football came in the 2-0 loss at home to Chelsea in August and has been an unused substitute in Arsenal’s last five games in the competition.



Gabriel Martinelli looks dejected during one of this two Premier League appearances for Arsenal this season. (Image: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
Gabriel Martinelli looks dejected during one of this two Premier League appearances for Arsenal this season. (Image: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

And that run could very well be extended to six after what Aubameyang, Smith Rowe, Saka and Nicolas Pepe did on international duty.

As Martinelli is capable of playing in any role across the front three, he is effectively in competition with the quartet for a place in Arteta’s strongest XI.

The problem, well in Martinelli’s case, is that they were all on the scoresheet for their respective nations at some point over the past fortnight and that could result in more time on the sidelines for the 20-year-old aside from a potential outing against Leeds United in the EFL Cup.

Read more.

Bernd Leno

What a difference six weeks makes. In the September international break, Leno got a rare chance in between the sticks and kept a clean sheet as Germany beat Liechtenstein 2-0.

Since then he’s lost his status as Arsenal’s first-choice stopper to £24m summer signing Aaron Ramsdale and is once again acting as cover to Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen for the national team.

Hansi Flick rotated his keepers for the World Cup qualification double-header against Romania and North Macedonia, but it was Leno who was the odd man out.



Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno was on the bench alongside Marc-Andre ter Stegen for Germany's FIFA World Cup Qualifier against North Macedonia. (Image: Hasan Bratic/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno was on the bench alongside Marc-Andre ter Stegen for Germany’s FIFA World Cup Qualifier against North Macedonia. (Image: Hasan Bratic/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

And if reports, as per Sport Witness, are true about Flick potentially not naming Leno in future squads as he prefers to pick players based on their performances at club level, the 29-year-old faces a huge battle just to be on the plane to Qatar next year.

From starting the season as Arsenal’s undisputed number one, it’s safe to say that Leno’s stock will continue to drop unless he starts playing regularly again.

A January exit has been mooted, and that may be the best solution for all parties.





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