Why Kieran Tierney will be key in Mikel Arteta’s system
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
I had very little time to prepare this article for today, so thought I’d write a short piece on Kieran Tierney’s involvement (when he’s available and football resumes) in Mikel Arteta’s system and why I believe he’ll be a key cog in it.
Injuries have plagued Tierney’s relatively short career, and we’ve unfortunately seen that thus far at Arsenal. Having sustained a nasty shoulder dislocation against West Ham in early December, the Scotsman hasn’t been involved since, and whilst this has enabled the emergence of Bukayo Saka as a makeshift left-back, it’s also a great shame that we’ve not seen much from our £25 million recruit from Celtic in his first campaign in North London.
In what we did see from him early in the season, we saw the ability he has, and I think it’s fair to say that the ceiling is incredibly high for him in his career. Tierney managed an extremely impressive 0.22 xA/90 in the Europa League, a brilliant stat for a full-back which demonstrates his ability to create high quality chances. His crossing on his left foot in the final third is pin-point and very clearly has an intended target- contrasting greatly to our other left-back Sead Kolasinac, who deploys more of a ‘hit and hope’ strategy.
Tierney has also shown his defensive abilities to be astute and not out of his depth in a more intense league with better quality. He dealt comfortably with Adama Traore’s electric pace, with the Spaniard not beating him once throughout the entire game at the Emirates- not a stat many can boast. One on one he’s excellent, whilst he’s also very aware and shows a good level of discipline, never leaving the left-side vacant for the opposition, yet somehow providing a relentless outlet and overlap offensively. His physicality and athleticism suit him perfectly to the English game.
Perhaps defensive concentration in a team where he will not dominate the game for 90 minutes is an area he needs to improve, evident in the penalty he gave away at home to Southampton where he allowed his runner to peel off him and was forced to bring him down. Overall, however, he has all the attributes to thrive at Arsenal for years to come.
We’ve seen so far that Arteta is adopting Pep’s style of having one inverted full-back and one complete wing-back. A system that is being used more and more by progressive young coaches in Europe. The inverted full-back tucks in alongside the defensive midfielder when in possession, and essentially acts as an auxiliary central midfielder, involved in deeper build up play and not providing an overlap or underlap in offensive areas. The complete wing-back essentially acts as a winger in possession, occupying very high and wide areas of the pitch and providing an offensive outlet for the side.
The system that we have in place now means that the left-back is the wing-back and the right-back is inverted, although with personnel changes and Arteta possibly evolving to a 4-3-3 in the future, I do expect this to possibly fluctuate depending on which full-backs are available.
Whilst Bukayo Saka has excelled in this wing-back role, I do expect Arteta to revert him back into a natural winger once both left-backs are fit. I see Tierney being able to fill both roles. He has the pace and dynamism, as well as the crossing ability to fit a wing-back role, whilst also possessing the passing range to be able to fill the inverted role. This versatility to his game will endear him to Arteta, and will thus see him essential to the way in which Arteta wants the team to operate.
I’ve seen people question Tierney’s inclusion in our side due to the emergence of Saka, but I, for one, can’t wait to see him in this Arteta side.