Arsenal title hopes dented as Mikel Arteta faces Tomiyasu issue

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta may have to grant Takehiro Tomiyasu an extended period of rest and recovery after Japan’s heartbreaking exit from the 2022 World Cup. The 24-year-old appeared in no mood to turn his attention back towards a daunting Premier League title bid, with the Gunners needing all of their top talent ready and raring for the challenge. 

Japan had already established themselves as a team of dark horses in Qatar before their Round of 16 clash against Croatia got underway on Monday. Group-stage wins over Spain and Germany saw them fly through to the knockout rounds, where their exciting brand of football continued. 

It looked as though their dream would survive another round when Daizen Maeda edged them in front just before the interval but Croatia, who reached the final in 2018, fought back with a superb Ivan Perisic header. The game was eventually decided by a penalty shootout and Dominik Livakovic’s heroics ensured Japan were sent home. 

“It was not enough, we did not deserve to win,” claimed Tomiyasu after the final whistle. “We were so close to achieving our aim. They were better than us. I can’t be proud, I am not satisfied about what happened. This is football and we need to be much, much better.”

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“It was not enough, we did not deserve to win,” claimed Tomiyasu after the final whistle. “We were so close to achieving our aim. They were better than us. I can’t be proud, I am not satisfied about what happened. This is football and we need to be much, much better.”

When quizzed on when he would return to north London, he appeared in no way ready to cast his mind back towards a Premier League title charge. “I don’t know [when I’ll go back],” he admitted. “Hopefully I can get a bit of rest. I need time to forget about football. I need a bit of time.”

The Japan star’s versatility makes him a key asset for the Gunners as he can feature across the back-line, although he has primarily played at right-back since signing from Bologna. This campaign, he has been forced to switch flanks when called upon with White nailing down his preferred side. 

Arteta can take consolation in the fact that left-backs Kieran Tierney and Oleksandr Zinchenko didn’t travel to the World Cup and should be in fighting shape come December 26. Before then, Arsenal travel to Dubai for friendlies against Lyon and AC Milan. 

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