Arsenal star Takehiro Tomiyasu has returned to training following a long injury layoff, in a boost for Mikel Arteta ahead of the upcoming pre-season tours.

The 24-year-old was withdrawn in the first half as Arsenal were eliminated from the Europa League against Sporting CP, and has not featured since.

William Saliba was also injured in the same game, and the absence of both defenders saw Arsenal’s title challenge crumble.

It was unclear when Tomiyasu would be fit to return following surgery, but Arsenal fans will be delighted that the versatile defender may be able to have a full pre-season to recover in time for the start of the campaign.

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Journalist Ryan Taylor has now confirmed his return, and stated that the defender’s initial surgery and recovery has been a huge success, as the Japan international is now ready to return.

What role can Tomiyasu play next season?

Although he lost his starting spot on the right side of defence to Ben White, Tomiyasu can still play an important squad role for Arsenal as they return to the Champions League.

Jurrien Timber looks set to arrive, whilst Kieran Tierney could still leave. With Tomiyasu able to play across the back four, he can serve as a utility defender to cover the whole back line, and can also be a useful substitution to help close out games.

Arsenal FC v Sporting CP: Round of 16 Leg Two - UEFA Europa League
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His performances have been solid since his arrival from Bologna two years ago, but Tomiyasu’s fitness record has often let him down, and the arrival of Timber suggests that Arteta may not want to gamble on his fitness again.

However, this does not mean that he cannot play an important role, and with rotation key next season, having a reliable defender across the back line ready to step in as cover could be crucial over the course of the campaign.

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