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Kieran Tierney: Looking at Arsenal's potential new left-back

Here Tierney is pictured with the SPL title after the Glasgow side won their 9th league title in a row
Here Tierney is pictured with the SPL title after the Glasgow side won their 9th league title in a row

BBC Sports News correspondent David Ornstein confirmed Arsenal's interest in Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney on Saturday after the Gunners had an opening bid of £15 million rejected. Ornstein, who is very reliable when it comes to Arsenal news, stated that there is "Optimism an agreement will be reached between the clubs."

If Tierney is to join Arsenal it would likely be for a fee closer to Celtic's £30 million evaluation of the player and here is all you need to know about the Scottish international.

Background

Tierney was actually born in Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man but moved to Scotland when he was an infant. Celtic scouted him in 2005 and decided to sign Tierney, who was aged seven at the time.

It was ten years later that he made his first-team debut, coming off the bench against Dundee in 2015. Since then the young fullback has gone from strength to strength and has been an ever-present personality during Celtic's recent dominance of the Scottish Premier League.

Tierney has been no stranger to silverware during his time in Glasgow with four SPL titles to his name as well as two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups. He is also the only player to be named Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year three times, picking up the award in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Despite his birth in the Isle of Man, Tierney has gone on to represent Scotland's international side and has been capped 12 times already for the Scots.

Style of play

Tierney is a very well-rounded full-back. His reading of the game and tackling ability is noticeably excellent considering his age with Celtic legend Scott Brown describing him as being "hard as nails". His combative style is also helped by his electric pace and durability, similar to Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin in this regard. The 22-year-old's has earned plaudits for his work-rate as he tends to get up and down the pitch at an impressive rate, which can be seen in the graphic below.

Tierney's heatmap last season
Tierney's heatmap last season

Unai Emery's men have missed having a left-back who has pace with both Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac struggling at times to deal with opposition wingers that possess a burst of speed. However, this is not a problem that Tierney has.

Tierney's attacking exploits cannot be ignored either. The Manx defender is regarded as an exceptional crosser of the ball within Scotland, delivering 22 assists in just 102 SPL games, a highly impressive feat. Arsenal have been crying out for a fullback with crossing ability as Kolasinac, in particular, has often been maligned by the Gunners' faithful in the past two years for his poor final ball.

Tierney is also a versatile defender, playing in multiple left-sided positions within the backline. The Celtic ace has been deployed as the left centre-back in a back three, left-wing back in a back five as well as a left-back in a back four which is not too dissimilar from what Nacho Monreal has done for Arsenal over the last few years. This versatility would be a huge benefit to Unai Emery's team, as they often switch up their system between a back four and a back 3/5.

Tierney vs Kolasinac

Tierney's main competition for game-time would be Bosnian defender Saed Kolasinac who played 34 times for Arsenal last season with Gunners' boss Emery often preferring him to Monreal in the last campaign.

As there is such a large gulf in quality between the SPL and the Premier League it would be unfair to compare Tierney and Kolasinac's stats domestically. However, as they both featured in their side's Europa League campaign we can dive into some differences in their statistics both defensively and offensively.

From a defensive point, Tierney seems to trump the Bosnian in every department. In terms of tackles, the Celtic defender managed on average 1.7 a game, almost double the amount that the Arsenal defender achieved (1.0). He also maintained an impressive 2.2 interceptions and 2.5 clearances per game compared to Kolasinac's 0.9 and 1.6 respectively.

Arsenal fans became increasingly frustrated with Kolasinac's poor crossing as the season went on
Arsenal fans became increasingly frustrated with Kolasinac's poor crossing as the season went on

This illustrates Tierney's willingness and desire to defend, something that Kolasinac struggles with, tending to leave himself exposed on the counter-attack frequently. However, these stats must be taken with a pinch of salt as the sample size is a small one and obviously the two teams play in different systems with Celtic likely to do more defending in general.

Tierney is no slouch in an attacking sense either, averaging 1.0 successful crosses per game, a whopping 0.7 better than Kolasinac accumulated. Moreover, the 22-year-old is also very handy in taking on players, completing a dribble 1.2 times a game whereas Kolasinac scores 0.8 in that area. Both players average over 1.5 key passes per game as well with Tierney scoring 1.7 while his potential future team-mate averages 2.1.

While no deal has been done for the Scottish international it does look like it is on the cards and if it does go through Arsenal will be getting a versatile left-back with extremely high potential. The Gunners will get a very good deal if the fee is below £30 million considering his age and experience.

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Edited by Raunak J
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