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Kieran Tierney is future captain material

The Scottish left-back is leading by example.

Arsenal v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus

There’s enough negativity being written about Arsenal’s recent problems and run of poor form. So, we’re going to buck the trend, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving look at one of the current squad’s bright spots. Something that supporters can be thankful for — one Mr. Kieran Tierney.

While Arsenal’s lack of offense has become the team’s main challenge, the once porous defense has stopped leaking goals. The Gunners are presently tied for second in the league with ten goals allowed.

There’s still plenty of defensive work to be done. However, it’s clear that Brazilian center-back Gabriel has added some necessary strength to Arsenal’s back line. At the same time, another relatively new defender has flown under the radar while quietly establishing himself as a fan favorite. Scottish left back Kieran Tierney is starting to be recognized for his all-around play, temperament, and desire.

Tierney was signed from Celtic in August 2019 under then manager Unai Emery. In a span of just 15 months he has endured a ridiculous amount of changes and obstacles.

  • Missed the early part of the 2019-2020 season as he recuperated from double hernia surgery. Eventually made his full Premier League debut in late October 2019.
  • Just as he was starting to settle in, Tierney landed back on the disabled list. He dislocated his shoulder in an early December match at West Ham. The injury required surgery and Tierney was expected to miss three months.
  • While Tierney recovered, Arsenal sacked Unai Emery and replaced him with Mikel Arteta.
  • When Tierney was ready to return to training, the entire league was shut down for three months by coronavirus.
  • Tierney was back in the lineup when play finally resumed this past June. His presence immediately had an impact and he was named Arsenal’s player of the month. He scored his first Arsenal goal in July on the last day of the extended 2019-2020 season in a 3-2 victory versus Watford.
  • He was part of the team that won two trophies at Wembley in August; the FA Cup over Chelsea followed by the Community Shield shoot out win against Liverpool.
  • Tierney’s crazy year was capped off in grand style. He was part of the Scottish side that earlier this month qualified for his country’s first major tournament in 22 years. His team’s penalty shoot out win in Belgrade means that Scotland will be a part of next summer’s Euro 2020 Tournament (which will now actually be played in 2021).

Tierney is now one of the first names on the Arsenal team sheet, helps to shore up the defense, contributes to the attack (such as it is), and has made himself into an absolute fan favorite.

He was one of the few bright spots in the Gunners’ uninspiring 0-0 draw at Elland Road. Afterwards, he received praise from fans for his never say die attitude and hustle. It did not go unnoticed that Tierney’s effort at Leeds came after having just played three full matches for his national side during the international break.

Also on display was Tierney’s desire to back up his teammates. At the conclusion of the match he had words with Leeds defender Ezgjan Alioski for going to ground rather theatrically for Nicolas Pepe’s red card dismissal.

Tierney’s focus, work ethic, and overall play already has some speculating that he has the makings of a future Arsenal captain. The 23-year-old has also received praise from Arsenal legends and Invincibles Gilberto and Martin Keown.

Tierney’s stats are impressive. He has a 66.7% dribble success rate this season in the league as well as an 82% pass accuracy rate over 90 minutes. He also averages five interceptions per game.

For his constant hustle, technical ability, defensive awareness and passing and crossing ability, Tierney is showing the type of character that Arsenal have been in short supply of in recent memory. He’s a player that is quietly leading by example. I think there are plenty within the club and without who would like to see him wear the armband sooner rather than later.