For the fourth game in a row, Mikel Arteta utilised Takehiro Tomiyasu from the bench as the Japan international stepped up his return to full match sharpness.
After 15-minute cameos against Leicester and Bournemouth and a late appearance in Saturday’s win over Fulham, the right-back was trusted with half an hour against Aston Villa as Arsenal closed out a 2-1 win to stay top of the Premier League table.
Replacing Ben White, the Japan international didn’t put a foot wrong as he quickly got to grips with the pace of the game.
After an injury-hit debut season that stretched into the summer and forced him to miss all of the Gunners’ pre-season friendlies, it’s unsurprising that Mikel Arteta is pleased to have the ex-Bologna man back.
“We are really happy that we are loading some minutes into him and he’s responding really well,” said the boss.
“He’s been training now for weeks without any issues which is the first period he’s been able to do that in the last six or seven months, and you can see the way he played today when he came on – I think he was really good.”
Tomi’s return is timely considering injuries have already taken a toll on the midfield. Both Mo Elneny and Thomas Partey are facing spells on the sidelines with hamstring and thigh issues respectively and Martin Odegaard suffered a “bad kick” and had to be substituted against Villa.
Arteta accepts his options in the centre of the park are thinning just as the games are stacking up.
“We were pretty protected in that position and now we are more exposed, but we have to be more prepared for uncertainties.
“Injuries, suspensions and things like that can happen, especially this season which will be really strange with the World Cup. We’ll try to prevent things but sometimes it’s not easy.”
While some players will benefit from others being injured – Sambi Lokonga enjoyed his first start of the season at the base of midfield – other plans to rotate may have to be put on hold.
“I was thinking about it [rotating] but then with what happened with Mo and Thomas, things can happen and then your intention isn’t what you can actually do.
“It’s related to what is available on the day and how the players are feeling, but of course we want to give opportunities to the squad because they really deserve them.”