Nuno Tavares


Peter Munnelly

July 3, 2021

Nuno Tavares at Arsenal

Who is Nuno Tavares?

21-year-old Nuno Tavares is trading out Álex Grimaldo for Kieran Tierney, as his summer move sees him become Arsenal’s deputising left-back. Limited minutes and a withdrawn role restricted his offensive output last season, but he has nonetheless showcased potentially very valuable traits, worthy of being added to the Gunners’ arsenal.

Nuno Tavares' Style of Play



This season, Tavares’ full-back role has involved him sitting deep and tucking in at times as well as keeping the width at wing-back when attacking. He times his wider shifts well to consistently offer at optimal angles into feet, rotating well between the two positions.

Although his lane-shifting – to move inside between the lines without hesitation and to attack open channels – is a huge positive, Tavares hasn’t yet shown an ability to be a prominent overloading threat from wider areas.

His runs into depth can be few and far between, as he often appears static in his wing-back-based position and only looks to threaten the space in behind when play is on the near-side, on the vertical, as opposed to on the diagonal.

Tavares’ receiving of the ball has proved to be a mixed bag so far. He receives nicely in advanced, central positions, and also tends to open up his body well once receiving out wide – which has helped to enhance his forward angles and has managed to highlight his best forward passing qualities, through the exploitation of narrow gaps through the lines.

A lack of conviction on the ball-carrying side of things is what most lets him down, though. His dribbling style mostly involves step-overs that lead to him pushing the ball heavily into space so that he can beat opponents in short foot races, but this can become too predictable, and can also be let down by his own inconsistencies when it comes to the weight and direction of his touches mid-stride.

Despite being comfortable in evading pressure on the cut-in almost anywhere on the pitch – and often using it to its fullest effect when taking on opponents down the line in space – he becomes too quickly paralysed in situations where he has space to push the ball into immediately upon receiving.

By resigning to such a rigid motion, even before receiving, he can be left flat-footed, making his own sudden actions all the more jarring to himself, which then has a knock-on effect to his subsequent actions, leading to negative passes and poor touches.

When Tavares has a bit more space to handle with the ball, though, he boasts great intent and timing in his passing. Although his awareness from out wide rarely extends to the far side, he is more than aware of when there are feint but incredibly productive opportunities to access third-man runs through initial passes into the feet of attackers between the lines, or through pauses that allow him to correctly time channel balls into new runs.

It can’t, however, be denied that Tavares’ passing efficiency needs improving. He regularly incorrectly weights simple passes, but more so medium-length ones that target space. The difficulty of pass is much less of a problem than the simple matter of consistency in execution, which in turn inhibits his ability and willingness to combine inwards to get himself into more dangerous positions.

Further up the pitch, the Portuguese full-back has a superb knack for setting whipped crosses far enough outside of his body to deliver the ball into fantastic areas across the face of goal. Sometimes he requires too many touches before releasing the ball, and occasionally scuffs efforts, but his patience and awareness aid in knowing when and how to play the right type of cross. There is a purpose to any low or aerial delivery, as a result.

Whereas Tavares’ one-footedness can restrict him in dribbling and angular situations, here it is less of a problem as he’s more open to whipping in crosses with his weaker, right foot.

His defensive side is altogether much more cohesive. In transitions, he’s displayed great intensity to ensure he’s always getting back goal-side, and his awareness of runs, inside and behind him when the line is high is very good.

The left-back’s acceleration and aggression prove to be great assets in his man-marking at times, as he presses up from behind in committed but controlled fashion. Despite making occasionally unnecessary fouls, the matter of how well he angles his body, slows himself down, and shifts his body in different directions is what allows him to perfectly mimic opposition movements. When he’s up close against a receiver, he’s then always making two-step shifts from side to side to cover the angles.

In face-to-face circumstances, he handles situations similarly, and even more intelligently in some cases in the way he curves his approaches to ensure blind-sided runners aren’t immediately accessible.

Tavares maintains a light-footed stance that is typically quite narrow, with the main problem being that his tackle attempts then tend to revolve around stabbed challenges with the back leg coming across his body (no matter which side he’s playing on). Consequently, this quite frequently leaves him planted and exposed whenever his attempts are mistimed. Even in case where these attempts are well-timed, it’s easy for the ball to then ricochet back into the opponent’s hands.

The main area for improvement, though – and the one that is most drastically impacted by his position in relation to the ball – is his awareness. When on ball-far side, he’s well aware of the threats at hand and aligns and positions himself smartly. 

However, on the near side, he’s susceptible to neglecting his own opposite numbers once they’ve laid the ball off, since he’s then drawn towards the ball instead. Without the scanning needed to alert him to both the threat of his prior opponent and the depth of the defensive line, he frequently leaves himself committed to positions that are too transparent.

Forecasting Nuno Tavares' Future Prospects

Tavares might not bear the extent of the qualities a Kieran Tierney does, but his acquisition by Arsenal for a reported €8 million fee, rising to €10 million if certain criteria are met, appears to be a very astute purchase for a young player that can help account for the fullback’s injury problems.

His attacking side might come more into question in a more intense environment, but the greater freedom his role should entail offensively could provide greater framework to tap into his potential as a crosser – the kind which would suit the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli down to a tee. His forceful intent, on both a positionally and passing level, should be aspects of his game that also fit in well with Mikel Arteta and his nearby team-mates.

On the defensive side, the puzzle looks a little more complete, and Arteta has already proven himself to be capable of improving his own players’ weaknesses. It’s now about whether his apparent athleticism will translate to a more demanding role, as well as tackling tougher opposition.

Nuno Tavares is a full-back who possesses great forward intent in his passing and crossing; he boasts amazing intensity defensively, possesses good awareness, and is very skilled in his technical approach when confronting opponents directly.

Nuno Tavares can be quite rigid in his dribbling and hasn’t proven himself yet as a wide outlet. Defensively, he needs to improve his tackling technique and his awareness of what’s happening in close proximity to him.

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