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Who is Arsenal Target Nuno Tavares


As always, the transfer window has been a roller coaster of emotional responses. From Edu and Arteta being deemed not good enough, to speculations about their motives when they want to spend cash on names.

It’s the ultimate test to see just how much of Football Twitter is actual footballing adept and how many really just enjoy the banter.

In the end, we’re all just in it for the banter, but let’s forgo that for a moment as we look at, what seems like, the first transfer Arsenal look to announce.

I’d like to imagine Arteta and Nuno locked eyes during the 5 minutes he was on the field during Benfica’s 3-2 loss to Arsenal, and just connected right then and there. Because I surely didn’t know who he was before it was reported Arsenal was about to bid on him.

As many others, I had my eyes set elsewhere, scouting potential transfers based on stats and nationality. If you want to read more about my scouting suggestions, it’s available right here.

That being said, I’ve made several horrendous scouting reports, so far, on players Arsenal had no interest in whatsoever, so let’s humour Arsenal for a moment and take a look at Tavares together.


The first thing I noticed, when I looked at highlights and automatic reports of Tavares via Wyscout, was his defensive work.

While very different from Tierney in snuffing out danger before it materialises, Tavares’ decision making when defending was above what I expected. 

A lot of full backs have a tendency to get very high up the pitch and then jog back, leaving the central defenders and midfield to deal with transitions – Tavares, on the other hand, usually tracks back when possession is lost, and tries to take up supporting positions behind the CB. 

Turnover and Tavares is too far away to engage the ball carrier, but too far from the inside man

As the ball is played inside, Tavares positions himself towards the center to discourage a through ball to the number 9

With no good passing options available, the opposition is forced to recycle the ball

When defending deep, Tavares also stays narrow when play is through the middle or on the opposite flank, but does move out to deny easy crossing opportunities down his own flank.

When defending 1v1, Tavares usually tries to reduce the distance between him and the opponent, trying to force them to get backwards or contest him in a running duel. While Tavares isn’t as rapid as other fullbacks, he does have the power to match the speed of his opponent.

Tavares stands off, dropping down to be ready to intercept

As the opponent turns, Tavares moves in to reduce the space and deny the opponent the ability to turn

With the opponent shielding the ball, Tavares gets up close and try to force a turnover

What I don’t like about his defensive work:

I’m very torn by Tavares’ defensive work. I love his positioning and his defensive movement. But he also comes off as just a bit too eager when tackling. He looks like he’s annoyed there’s a hunk of meat between him and his ball – And thus, concedes many unnecessary fouls in an attempt to gain possession.

I also feel like, while his positional mindset is on point, he’s not a very good 1v1 defender. Either tackling too soon or being slow to react to directional twists, he either gets turned or turns on the meat grinder.

Tavares, playing left back, tucks nicely in behind the center back, denying runs in behind the LCB

The ball is passed long into the right winger and Tavares moves in to deny easy entry into the 18yd box

Tavares lunges into the tackle and concedes a could in a dangerous position

Lastly, something I will elaborate on in his offensive work, his low speed dribbling leaves a lot to be desired.


Tavares is new school. Very new school. And where Tierney feels very much like an old school no bullshit fullback, Tavares looks like a much more forward thinking, linebreaking type of player.

This typically manifests with his decision making in possession, where he will prioritise less safe progressive passes to more safe horizontal and backwards passes. When given the choice between passing it to an unmarked defender or a man marked midfielder dropping to receive, he’ll usually choose the forward option and then move forward to receive on the overlap.

As an alternative, Tavares will also try to beat his marker with his speed and bring the ball forward. And in these scenarios it seems like he likes to progress centrally more than stay wide, getting into positions to either make an early cross or shoot on goal.

Focusing on his crossing, there’s not much to report. He’s trying to hit them into the 2-3 danger areas. He shows the ability to cross it low, whip it in or float it towards the far post. Being able to cross it on several different scenarios shouldn’t be a direct positive, but with the varying crossing quality Arsenal has shown the last couple of seasons leaves my expectations pretty low.

What I don’t like about his offensive work

While we’re (of course) all gawking at the ball carrying ability of fullbacks during Euro 2020, namely Mæhle and Spinazzola, it’s easy to be underwhelmed when we see someone who doesn’t have the same understanding about dribbling.

Basically, dribbling can be boiled down to a few key things:

  • Acceleration
  • Deceiving
  • Direction
  • Decision

… and right now I would have loved another word for acceleration. But basically even the most long legged of us are able to successfully beat someone in a 1v1, as long as we use our intent properly. When studying Mæhle and Damsgaard during Euro 2020, being able to hide the intended movement and acceleration as long as possible, they’ve both managed to beat their man on multiple occasions.

Tavares can turn on the burners, but he doesn’t do a great job of hiding his intentions. Usually he puts himself in a bad situation by not just taking the easy decision and sticking to his off the ball movement.

Tavares manage to gain possession, but struggles to get the ball forward, deciding to move wide, which invites the right wing to move in

Furthermore, by being so forward minded, he tends to hurry his passes as well, passing while not under pressure, to someone under pressure, giving his teammates unnecessary work to retain possession. When these passes also have a tendency to be slightly off the mark in terms of speed and direction, Tavares could easily be the culprit of a few transitional goals. 

Tavares recieves a pass out wide and sees a passing option up front

… he doesn’t, however, hit a very good pass and the opposition is able to retain position and start another attack


It’s expected that Tavares is announced any day now, and I’m actually pretty interested to see how Arsenal is going to use him.

There’s no doubt in my mind that he would be able to bring some much needed cover to Tierney, but I’m also worried he might be a liability against teams with set piece specialists.

All in all, it’s the type of player that I, personally, enjoy when Arsenal buy. Under the radar and, eligible, bought for £7m, which is his valuation, Arsenal haven’t paid more than they were expected to.

Personally I think this is a positive transfer, and I look forward to seeing him play in an Arsenal shirt during pre-season, as soon as Denmark beat England.

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