Kieran Tierney will return to the Arsenal team this month. His attitude and competitiveness are as important and impactful as his play on the pitch.
When the Premier League returns to action next week, with Arsenal travelling to Manchester City to kick off proceedings on Wednesday, June 17th, Mikel Arteta will welcome Kieran Tierney back into the fold as a fully fit starting option.
Tierney has missed the majority of the season with a sports hernia issue and then a dislocated shoulder, which he suffered in early-December. He is yet to play a match under Arteta. Just as he was returning to training, the season was postponed due to the coronavirus and the Scottish international is still awaiting his chance to assert his place under the Spaniard.
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Many have commented on the footballing impact Tierney’s return will have, including offering a more natural option at left-back instead of moulded winger Bukayo Saka and providing greater balance across the team, but there is another angle to Tierney’s inclusion that should be recognised: his attitude and competitiveness.
Speaking to Ian Wright as a part of Adidas’ ‘I’m going to call you’ campaign, Arteta did not hold back in his praise of Tierney:
"“I’m really looking forward to working with him and giving him the opportunity to play. His attitude, his commitment, his willingness, it’s incredible. I think he’s going to bring something special to us. It [the injury] has been a shame, but it’s part of his development. During your career, you go through these moments. I challenged him to say, Kieran, how are you going to react to that? You can’t feel sorry for yourself, this happened. Okay, the level of pressure now is a little bit higher, you have to deal with it, you’re playing with a top club, top expectations, deal with it. You have everything to be successful here. You have the best possible attitude that I’ve known from a player, go and live your profession and enjoy it.”"
This spirit, fight, and will to win was on show in the limited playing time he did enjoy. After Gabriel Martinelli was crocked by a Standard Liege defender, Tierney was the first onto the scene to stick up for the 18-year-old, pushing the defender away and backing up his young teammate.
Then, in the West Ham match in which he later dislocated his shoulder, he was seen chewing out Martinelli who first failed to protect the ball and then failed to win it back, diving in on Ryan Fredericks and forcing Tierney to cover.
This is the type of attitude that Arsenal have stereotypically lacked over the years. Of course, this is the obvious criticism that has been levelled at the team, especially during the Arsene Wenger days, but it is largely true. The Gunners do not like to fight. They can be bullied, intimidated. They lack leadership, someone to challenge their teammates and bring the best out of them.
Tierney, though, will take no prisoners, whether they be opposition or teammates. He flies into challenges, he fights on the pitch, he leads by example, and he communicates clearly and harshly when needed. He was Celtic captain at 21, after all.
Tierney will help Arsenal greatly in a footballing sense. But his attitude and competitiveness are equally as important as his ability. It is this whole package that makes his return to the team so exciting.