Arsenal: Kieran Tierney perfect because of his simplicity

Arsenal, Kieran Tierney (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Kieran Tierney (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images) /

Kieran Tierney is a simple man and footballer. He is understated off the pitch and focused on the pitch. It is what makes him the perfect left-back for Arsenal.

When Kieran Tierney arrived at Arsenal last summer, Celtic fans expressed their gratefulness for his service at the club and made it known that Gunners supporters would love their new star left-back. It did not take long for them to be proven right.

Tierney has hardly played during his first season at the Emirates. He arrived with a hip injury, dislocated his shoulder in December, and then missed three months like everyone else due to the coronavirus. It seems odd, then, that is universally so popular among the supporters. And yet, that serves to portray just how brilliant he has been in those outings.

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On the pitch, Tierney has flourished because of his simplicity. He is a defender first, as Gordan Strachan, his former Scotland manager, said via The Athletic:

"“He’s got a real street mentality when it comes to playing football. He likes making tackles. He’s an old-fashioned defender who goes forward but understands, like the top defenders in the world, that defending is his job first, to stop people playing.”"

He is not flashy or particularly skilful. He does not try fancy tricks or weaving dribbles. He is not blistering quick either and rarely produces highlight moments that go viral on social media. He is solid, dependable, consistent. He executes the job in front of him and then moves on. He keeps things simple.

This goes for his work in possession and out of it. When defending, he does not hare into challenges and race out of position. He is a willing and able tackler, yes, but he times his attempts, remaining conservative, patiently waiting for the right opportunity to press and win the ball. Positionally, he is excellent. He reads the game well, senses danger, and is rarely caught too far up the pitch.

And then with the ball, he is calm, composed, capable. He will never beat three defenders and curl a finish into the bottom corner, but then that is not what he is in the team to do. His pass completion rate is consistently high, he protects the ball under pressure, can beat a man with smart first touches into space, and delivers a brilliant cross into the penalty area. None of these skills are especially groundbreaking, but they comprise a superb left-back who does his job at a very high level.

Tierney’s simplicity extends off the pitch, too. He recently revealed that he has not experienced life in London because he has focused on recovering from injury, getting fit, and maximising his talent in training and matches. He almost only wears all-black tracksuits, brings his stuff to an away match against Sheffield United in a Tesco plastic bag, and wears a short-sleeved shirt with shorts no matter the weather.

He tucks his shirt into his shorts, a real throwback look for a throwback player, and he is not afraid to show an aggressive streak, both to the opposition and to his own teammates. He verbally chewed out Sead Kolasinac on several occasions against Leicester City on Tuesday.

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Tierney is no-nonsense, hardcore, and old fashioned. But he plays in a modern, stylistic, composed manner. He is the best of both worlds, all wrapped up in a simple delight. Arsenal are lucky to have him.