Arsenal fans grew used to seeing Kieran Tierney line up as Mikel Arteta’s left-sided centre-back in a back three after last season’s restart. That was the case again in the first half of their pre-season win over MK Dons but the second half also saw him move to wing-back which could happen once the the long-awaited signing of Gabriel Magalhaes is complete.
Having fulfilled that role for Scotland and Celtic before signing last summer, when it came time to slide inside, the Scot had no issues. His defensive positioning was sound as he was rarely caught in a panic, he was composed when defending one on one, was able to launch the ball into the channels for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and offered support when bursting forward himself.
Returning to action at Stadium MK 24 days after playing a crucial role in the Gunners’ FA Cup final victory, Tierney picked up where he left off at centre-back.
With Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Aubameyang completing the left-sided attacking chain for the first half, the trio began working on patterns of play to pull the MK Dons defence apart.
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When the emphasis was on Tierney to act as the third man, he’d play the ball out to Maitland-Niles, Aubameyang would drop and the space was open up for him to breeze into from centre-back. Although this pattern in particular didn’t lead to a goal, the off-ball movements of Aubameyang did work to create the space for the 23-year-old in behind and therefore, towards the edge of the box when he tried to cut back.
This was most smoothly executed in the eighth minute and highlights the benefits of using Tierney as the third centre-back but, as everybody knows, that is because he is a full/wing-back at heart. He will have the license to do that from the left due to his natural game, but from the right, William Saliba’s role in the build-up is more to do with his passing into the…