Arsenal have been linked heavily to Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney as they look to build a squad capable of challenging for a return to the Champions League. Unai Emery showed signs of being able to compete last season, but he requires reinforcements if he is to challenge at the very top of the division. The Telegraph report that the Gunners may be forced to spend more than half of their transfer budget to land the Scottish international. Although that will represent a considerable risk, it does look to be a move that will improve the first-team squad.
At the age of 22, Tierney has an excellent reputation in Scotland, with many believing him to be one of the country’s best players. Ironically, the player better than him in the national team is Andrew Robertson, who is also a left-back. There is criticism about the quality of the Scottish Premier League, Celtic is a huge club and it is a great experience for a young player with ambitions of reaching the top. Recent success stories have been Moussa Dembele, Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama.
It could be that Tierney is the next to reach the next level. One of the benefits from learning his trade in Scotland has been the confidence it has given Tierney on the ball. The left-back contributes in possession, which makes him an attractive proposition for Arsenal, who will want every player to be able to make an impact with the ball. In the Europa League last season, the 22-year-old completed 75.7% of his passes and he is a player that looks to make positive contributions in attack.
Like his compatriot Robertson, the Celtic full-back looks to get forward at every opportunity and he enjoys offering an option on the overlap. One tactical possibility that Tierney would give Arsenal is the ability to play with wing-backs. This formation change would give an opportunity to provide more balance and offer a chance to get all of their talented attacking players on the pitch.
Sead Kolasinac is the current preferred option on the left-side of the defence, but he has shown himself to be unreliable, often making mistakes. He was a threat going forward, but given the frailties of the back defence, it became too much of a risk to use the Bosnian in that role. It isn’t surprising that the risk-averse Emery is looking to improve in that position.
In last season’s Europa League, Tierney made 3.9 ball recoveries and 2.5 clearances per game, proving his defensive quality in a higher standard of competition than the domestic competition. One of the reasons why the Scottish international would be a good addition is his huge work rate. He is tireless in his approach and Arsenal could benefit from more players like that in the team. Moreover, he has displayed leadership qualities during his time at Celtic and the Gunners desperately need more of that in the squad.
The figures being mentioned are eye-watering for a player that hasn’t played outside of Scotland, but it is obvious that he has a lot of potential. There are few top quality full-backs in the game at the moment and Robertson’s development at Liverpool will provide Arsenal with confidence that Tierney can have a similar impact. There is risk attached, but he would represent an upgrade on the current options in the squad.