Heading in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, Mikel Arteta will have many dilemmas surrounding his team selection. One that will be key is whether he uses a back three or a back four from the outset.
Upon returning from lockdown, a back four was deployed for two games before switching to a back three which has been used more often. With this, will come the decision of whether Kieran Tierney is played as a full/wing-back or as the left-sided centre-back – both being roles he’s excelled in.
Able to play both, he was exposed to the centre-back role way before arriving at Arsenal as Gordon Strachan used him there for Scotland. Ahead of the cup final against Chelsea, the former Scotland manager has spoken about why Tierney’s transition between that centre-back and full-back was so smooth.
“He has the type of mind that allows him to think that whatever he tries will come off. He has complete faith in himself and it’s totally justified,” Strachan told Sportsmail.
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“I played him at three positions for Scotland. Left back, left of three centre backs and also right back.
“My two best players were left backs — Kieran and Andy Robertson — so I shifted Kieran across. He never complained. He just got on with it. That’s how good he is and that’s how good his attitude is.
“He is bright and he smells danger, just like Virgil van Dijk does at Liverpool. He isn’t in that class yet but there are similarities. And he backs himself. He is brave like that.
“Many full-backs or central defenders won’t push out on to a winger, for example. They are happy to let them cross. At least they can’t get beaten or embarrassed that way. Kieran won’t do that. He will get out there and say, ‘If you are gonna cross this, you will have to get by me first.”
While Tierney’s performances on the pitch have made him a popular figure among Arsenal fans, his off-pitch personality has been just as important in getting the Gunners fan base on his side. As recent as the FA Cup quarter-final, he was spotted arriving at Bramall Lane with a Tesco carrier bag which fans took to extremely well.
Throughout the season, however, as running theme with the 23-year-old has been his desire to train and play in short sleeved t-shirts and shorts – even in blisteringly cold weather. Strachan also addressed this part of Tierney’s approach and why he admires it.
“He has what I call that lunatic mentality, and I mean that in a good way,’ the former Scotland manager added.
“He was like Scott Brown at Celtic. It gets cold in Glasgow you know but those two would walk around with just their T-shirts on.
“Kieran has a first-class approach. He listens and takes in information and, crucially, he listens to what you are telling other players too so that he understand their roles also.”