Talking Tactics

Returning stars: Tierney can sharpen Arsenal's cutting edge

6 Jun 2020
Kieran Tierney, Arsenal

Adrian Clarke explains how the left-back's pinpoint deliveries can provide a new dimension to the Gunners' attack

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Kieran Tierney (ARS) 

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta will be boosted by the return to fitness of his best crosser. 

Kieran Tierney has endured an injury-plagued debut campaign in English football, starting just nine matches in all competitions since joining from Celtic.  

But when fit and available, the left-back has impressed. 

Displaying natural dynamism in wide areas and the ability to deliver pinpoint crosses, the 23-year-old can add genuine quality to the Arsenal side.

Chance creator

In just 299 minutes of Premier League action, Tierney has produced 21 crosses and four goalscoring opportunities.  

Making 1.2 chances from open play per 90 minutes, he is statistically the most creative full-back in the Arsenal squad.  

The highly promising Bukayo Saka (1), Sead Kolasinac (0.73), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (0.67) and fit-again Hector Bellerin (0.14) have not been able to match his supply line.  

Arsenal crossing stats per 90 mins 
Open-play crosses Success. open-play crosses Success. crosses inc. corners
Tierney 6.32 Tierney 1.81 Tierney 1.81
Saka 3.45 Aubameyang 0.82 Pepe 1.41
Bellerin 3.03 Kolasinac 0.49 Ozil 1.24

The Scotland international is adept at dropping a shoulder to create the space needed to whip a ball across the face of goal.  

Having made room for himself in such an effortless manner, his left boot is then tremendously accurate.

Tierney finds his intended target with 28.6 per cent of his crosses.  

As the team's most prolific crosser by some distance, it would be a surprise if Arteta does not turn to him between now and the end of 2019/20.  

Arsenal's forwards would likely see an increase in the number of quality chances they receive if Tierney is able to string a run of matches together.  

Healthy rivalry 

Arteta's first-choice left-back before the season was put on hold was Saka 

The 18-year-old, whose natural position is as a winger, adapted to the role outstandingly well, providing a number of telling contributions.  

Saka's tally of eight assists in all competitions plus three goals means it will not be easy for Tierney to dislodge the teenager from the team.  

Tierney in UEFA Europa League
2019/20 Total
Appearances 4
Assists 2
Key passes 6
Open-play crosses 15
Success. open-play crosses 8

But Arteta will be aware of how well Tierney performed in UEFA Europa League fixtures prior to picking up his shoulder injury.  

More than half of his crosses found a team-mate, and he laid on two terrific assists for Gabriel Martinelli at Emirates Stadium.  

Best of Tierney v Standard Liege

In Europe, Tierney sometimes played behind Sakaand we may well catch more glimpses of that pairing in the coming weeks.  

Deploying those two young talents in tandem would free up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Martinelli to move into the central striker role.  

Fit and raring to go, Tierney will be determined to showcase his quality and make up for lost time.  

Also in this series

Part 1: Returning stars: Loftus-Cheek to boost Blues' top-four bid
Part 2: Returning stars: Brooks can be Cherries' missing link
Part 4: Returning stars: Kane ready to inspire Spurs again
Part 5: Returning stars: McGinn can give Villa fresh impetus
Part 6: Returning stars: Laporte can transform Man City defence
Part 7: Returning stars: Rashford aiming to regain red-hot form

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