When you ask a Celtic fan about Kieran Tierney before his move to Arsenal last season, the words energetic athletic, and defensively robust would come in the discussion. But if you talk about him with an Arsenal fan the one word they’d focus on is committed.
The young scot has fully bought into the Arsenal Youth Project under Mikel Arteta and his performances and the commitment of these performances have shown through, as Arsenal won their 14th FA Cup after a fantastic performance against Chelsea.
Something that caught our eye while analyzing Tierney as a whole was his flexibility in Mikel Arteta’s 343 and we’ll be sharing some of our findings with you guys.
Tierney as a CB
On paper, Tierney would always start off as a 3rd CB on the left side and tasked with the responsibility of maintaining a tight backline in a 3 with David Luiz and Holding/Mustafi on the opposite flank. He’s performed the role that Mikel Arteta has given him so well that he has quickly registered himself as one of Arsenal’s best defenders in the short time he’s been here.
In fact, we are willing to wager that Tierney’s performances on that left flank are a major reason that Arsenal continues to play in a back 3 at least on paper. He’s combative, energetic, and aggressive in the tackle.
When Arsenal don’t have the ball Tierney sticks closer to David Luiz in the center for two main reasons
- To make sure the half spaces are covered while letting the wingback look after the width.
- Cover Luiz’s lack of agility
The pic above from the community shield game showcases Tierney covering Luiz who had gone forward to press Firmino in an attempt to win the ball. While he was out of position, Tierney dropped in creating a 2v1 centrally with Niles covering the wide player should he choose to go narrow in the box. It allows Arsenal to defend both narrowly and wide well.
As for the scott with the ball, Arsenal’s 343 is only that on paper. On the pitch they stretch into a back 4 when they have the ball specifically when playing out of a press. Playing this way, you want your LCB to provide the width, with the LWB moving into more attacking positions.
This is where Tierney’s versatility comes in.
Tierney as a LB
Before we look into Tierney as a LB in Arsenal’s formation, we should have a statistical outlook of his performance for the club in that position.
From the statistical information given above we can deduce the following conclusions.
- Tierney is a reliable offensive threat
- He’s a very underrated dribbler in attacking areas
- Decent passer
- Fantastic tackler and reading of the game
One of Tierney’s main weapon from that LB slot is the diagonal along the touchline for Aubameyang or AMN to race through into space. Arsenal used this well in the FA Cup final, drawing the foul from Azpilicueta which allowed Aubameyang to score from the penalty spot.
Here we can see Tierney maintaining width for Arsenal’s first goal in the match against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final. Due to this, City are confused as who they are suppose to press due to the constant rotation of Arsenal’s defensive players (namely Tierney and AMN).
As you can see, the scott maintains width while AMN has switched to a more wide role while Aubameyang has moved into the box around Garcia to exploit space. Its a clever tactical ploy from Mikel Arteta and one that saw them being very difficult to press.
The goal came from this exact situation with Tierney receiving the ball outwide and playing a great ball into Lacazette allowing Arsenal to overload the right hand side.
Tierney’s versatility allows for not only him to become undroppable in the current Arsenal set up but, makes Arsenal difficult to predict and evolve in their new 3ATB formation (here’s our analysis on it)
He’s settled in very nicely at the club and we are looking forward to watchng how the Scott evolves in whatever formation the gunners play, as it looks like he’s comfortable no matter where he plays.
That flexibility alone, is priceless.