The lasting image of Kieran Tierney in an Arsenal shirt to date has to be his short-sleeved attire away at West Brom, his teammates dressed more appropriately for the snowy conditions at The Hawthorns. Presumably hardened by the bitter climates of Scotland, Tierney was Arsenal’s man of the match on the day with his skill on the ball the talk of the match over the pitter-patter of snow. Taking on the Baggies’ full-back, Tierney beat him for pace before leathering a fantastic shot past Sam Johnstone.
For all the comedy of Tierney continuing to battle on in just a shirt – teammates Rob Holding and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opting for long sleeves and gloves – the Scotsman is building a reputation as a fans favourite for his continual committed displays for The Gunners. In recent years, Arsenal haven’t had lots to shout about. Now, with the likes of Saka and Tierney, the Gunners are winning back nay-sayers.
Born on the Isle of Man, Tierney would move to Scotland at just 10 months of age. This would begin his love affair with Celtic, a keen supporter as a child and opting to sign for the Scottish giants as a schoolboy. Tierney’s Celtic career would be trophy-laden, a heavily successful period in the Scottish club’s history with rivals Rangers in the lurch and Brendan Rodgers steering the Scottish giants to new heights. A hunger to succeed and train hard saw Tierney rise from U20 obscurity with Celtic to establishing himself as a key name on The Hoops team-sheet, turning down multiple moves away from Parkhead in his four years dominating the Celtic line-up.
A boyhood Celtic fan emerging into a household name was a dream come true for Celtic supporters, a real ‘one of your own’ feel to Tierney’s presence with The Hoops. The same likeable factor to his short-sleeves, football first approach at The Hawthorns was apparent throughout his time at Parkhead – always grateful for the opportunity to walk out for the club he supported, always ready to work hard to cement his place further. Injury issues would see the full-back out for lengthy spells at a time, but would never see him discarded from Parkhead in place of a fitter replacement. Tierney and Celtic felt like the right partnership, even given the captain’s armband on occasion under Brendan Rodgers’ tenure.
His eye for a wonder-strike, alongside his committed defensive displays at full-back and occasionally centre-back, saw the big clubs come calling for his services – the likes of Borussia Dortmund rumoured, Arsenal another suitor for the young Scot. Arsenal gambled on the Celtic man, paying in the region of 25 million for Tierney’s services. Much like his ex Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, Kieran had arguably outgrown the SPL. Winning trophy upon trophy with The Hoops, the time was right to test himself on a bigger stage in the Premier League.
He hasn’t disappointed, the same raw energy and desire to succeed in Scotland translating to his performances in England’s top division. The same injury issues have disrupted some momentum, his first taste of English football in the 19-20 season disrupted by hernia issues. But, with the captain’s armband vacant at The Emirates, Tierney is being put into the mixer as a possible replacement for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who continues to cause issues off the field for The Gunners.
This hasn’t necessarily disrupted the flow of Arsenal’s tight-knit group this campaign however, Arteta’s Gunners all reading off the same hymn sheet so far. Flattering to deceive in recent seasons – Arsenal way off the continual Champions League finishes under Arsene Wenger for some time – this season sees optimism return with The Gunners in 4th after 20 fixtures have been and gone. In a side full of attacking talent, the likes of Martinelli excelling in recent weeks, Tierney has allowed for this young Gunners side to tick. Still only 24 years of age himself, Tierney battles and plays like a leader. Driving his Gunners side constantly forward, his partner on the right hand side in Takehiro Tomiyasu complements the Scot’s game perfectly – the Japanese defender relentless in covering every blade of grass, committed to every tackle to win the ball back for Arteta’s men.
His attacking game has also helped the Gunners become more impactful in matches, putting teams to the sword instead of half-hearted attempts to get over the line. His goal against a pitiful Norwich side sticks out, Arsenal sides of the past might have been content with a slender win at Carrow Road. Now, with the expansive play of Kieran Tierney down the flanks, the Gunners really do have an arsenal of attacking options to call upon. Running through Norwich shirts with ease, a drilled finish past Angus Gunn sparked jubilant celebrations from the Scot. He joined in too to congratulate Saka for both his goals, a reminder that Tierney is a team player above all else. Yet, with his pivotal role in Arsenal’s success-story this season, he demands individual praise also.
With an up in the air feel over a permanent Arsenal captain, could Kieran Tierney be a frontrunner for the Arsenal armband in the future? His commitment for the cause at Celtic saw him become Hoops captain still as a youngster, Tierney now maturing in an Arsenal side with even younger individuals than the former breakthrough talent. Passionate, committed and ultimately likeable – Tierney strolling into a match against Sheffield United with a Tesco bag instead of the other glamorous bags he could afford – he is indicative of a new Arsenal side moving away from a toxic few years into a new promising future.