Tag Archives: Tierney

Arteta and the New Defence

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so the saying goes.

For a number of seasons, Arsenal have been top-heavy. Ridiculously powerful up top, capable of out-gunning any opponent, but porous at the back, like putting cowboy saloon doors on a bank vault.

Or a bodybuilder skipping leg day so much that his top half looks like it’s mid-way through swallowing his bottom half.

When was the last time we had a solid defence behind us that filled us with confidence? The last time we came close to that was the peak years of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Before and since, we’ve been fed on a diet of mediocre or average, which has been off-kilter to what we’ve had in attack.

Unai Emery recruited the likes of Sokratis to beef up our weak backline, offer some physical security. But if you’re also asking that same defence to play out from the back, Emery was ultimately trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

Then there is the capacity for mistakes in our defenders. Shkodran Mustafi can withstand pressure from teams for 80-85 minutes and be a prime candidate for Man of the Match, but he carries with him a warning sticker, that lets everyone know that there are mistakes within that can capitulate the efforts of the team, and override any decent aspects that Mustafi has contributed previously.

David Luiz is a huge character on and off the pitch, helping youngsters grow and also being a conduit for the positivity and work that Mikel Arteta’s new regime extolls. But every once in a while, Luiz will put his studded foot in his figurative mouth and inexplicably gift the opposition a goal.

It is a characteristic that has beset us for more than a decade, unfortunately.

But Mikel Arteta is instilling something at Arsenal. Something special. Something that is getting all of the players excited and looking to the next game. This tantalising project is luring players in. Both summer recruits thus far – Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes – have both spoken of other offers for their services coming in before joining Arsenal. Why did they shun these other, more lucrative deals?

Mikel Arteta.

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Magalhaes even spoke of a phone call from Arteta to convince him of his growth at Arsenal and the end goal of the club and how Magalhaes can be intrinsic to that.

We now have a solid looking nucleus of defenders at Arsenal.

Magalhaes was wanted by top clubs and chose Arsenal.

William Saliba is another top young talent that lit up Ligue Un last season. The Frenchman is younger than Magalhaes, but both could form part of a new-look backline – especially if Arteta continues to get his players adapting to a 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 formation. It involves a bank of three central defenders, with two wing-backs shutting down the flanks and then offering an avenue in attack. Put the experienced Luiz in the centre, with the youthful exuberance and skills of Magalhaes and Saliba, and we are looking at a brand new backline that is capable of following Arteta’s wishes.

We also have depth too. With the cultured Pablo Mari to come back into the fold, and Calum Chambers – who impressed last season before injury cut his campaign short – we now have the resources available to withstand the annual Arsenal injury crises at the back.

With the impressive Kieran Tierney able to play centrally too, Arteta may well have what he needs at the back to push this club forward and toward where he wants – and we want – us to be.

 

Choosing Arsenal and our Scottish ties

People support their team for a myriad of reasons, but if polled, the most popular reason fans choose their team is because of family tradition.

Which doesn’t make it a choice for most.

I’m jealous of those who have their support passed down to them like an intangible family heirloom. It runs through the family and is simply expected that the new generation will follow the same course. It means that the values and beliefs of the club from bygone eras will continue to live on in a way.

I found my club calling while I was in Scotland. It was the tail-end of the George Graham tenure, our football wasn’t exactly vibrant and a title challenge didn’t look remotely close – but as a cup team? That incarnation of Arsenal could rise above the ignominy of their league position and give any team in the land a game.

I didn’t enjoy football prior to the last two seasons of Graham’s reign. I regularly had Rangers games spoonfed to me on terrestrial TV and they were my Scottish team – but I didn’t have that fire in my belly to watch them, to lend my support, to spend inordinate amounts of money on merchandise and to go to Ibrox to watch them in the flesh.

When I began to follow Arsenal though, I would hoover up anything about them. Football magazines with posters. Collectibles (remember Pogs?) newspaper cutouts, Match of the Day – anything I would consume with voracity. On the rare occasion that an Arsenal game was televised? I was there on the edge of my seat.

Supporting Arsenal when they weren’t a fashionable team – while in Scotland – presented a few objections from pals at school. They would regularly scrawl on my Arsenal pencilcase, colouring it blue or green – or questioning why I didn’t follow Man United if I wanted to support an English team.

It wasn’t that simple. You know as well as I do that when you become a fan, it’s not as if you can sever ties. The bond (should) be unbreakable. So I weathered the abuse and jokes.

I’m quite proud now to say I’m a Scottish Gooner. And looking at the club’s history, my nation is intrinsically linked to the club.

First and foremost, Arsenal wouldn’t exist without a certain Scotsman.

David Danskin, the man behind the original idea to form the club.

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George Graham, Frank McLintock, Alex James, David Herd, Bob Wilson, Jimmy Logie, Eddie Kelly, Willie Young, Charlie Nicholas. These men were fine representatives for the club and upheld the Arsenal Way. It further strengthens my love for the club and my pride as a Scotsman.

There has been a dearth of Scotsmen wearing our red and white in recent years however. Young Charlie Gilmour was our last and before that it was a big gap. This is easy to explain – the quality of Scottish players didn’t exactly enamour top clubs to chase after their services…

But now, we have Kieran Tierney. The left-back started his Gunners career with injury, but now we are starting to see what the fuss was about. His darting runs down the flank are far from simply fast. They are pre-meditated and perfectly timed to coincide with the attack. His delivery is probably among the best at the club from out wide – and he has certainly destroyed any notion of struggling to jump the gap between the uncompetitive SPL and the Premier League.

Tierney is another link, another thread interwoven in the story between Arsenal and Scotland.

Arsenal Unveil New Signing

It may also help to strengthen our fanbase north of the border too.

Fans nowadays have an array of different mediums to consume football and it is easier than ever to forge the bond between fan and club. But the allure of glory is still very strong for kids, which is why there is a healthy contingent of City, Liverpool and Chelsea fans across the UK and beyond.

Hopefully though, Arsenal will be chosen by just as many by those kids who don’t have heritage to fall back on when choosing their club. Hopefully they will turn on the TV and the first match they devour greedily will be our boys on the pitch, scoring goals for fun and giving us all heart problems when they defend.

If these kids like excitement and unpredictability – there really is only one club in the running.

 

Missing Personnel – Do We Finally Have Squad Depth?

Our summer transfer activity rightfully created a buzz for this season.

After having our optimism dampened by continuous articles surrounding our meagre budget, the players captured by the club – with some help by our impressive backroom team – were enough to lift the spirits and the hope around our fanbase.

Not easy to do after the way last season ended.

The season has now been underway for a fair amount of time, and results have been decent, but not mindblowing, but it’s easy to forget that we are still operating at less than full capacity.

None of our rivals have our problem. The majority of their key players are in the team and slowly wearing away their ring rust. Us? We’ve missed an entire defence.

The backline is conspicuously our weak link. Our midfield can adapt with the personnel to combat different threats, and our frontline is amongst the most potent in the league.

Our four (or five dependant on the approach taken by Unai Emery) has been in dire need of reinforcements and is operating without definite first choice personnel.

With Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney all absent through injury, we have no doubt been hampered – and who else could claim otherwise? Even the likes of Man City would find room for at least Hector Bellerin. Pep is well known for his love of a roving wing-back – and Bellerin certainly fits that bill.

Holding and Bellerin

The players who have come in to fill the void have done admirably. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has shown he is a worthy member of our squad who has plenty in his locker. The combination of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac have both played at left-back but with Monreal now at Real Socidead, it leaves the attacking Kolasinac as our only recognised left-sided player – meaning Tierney’s return can’t come soon enough.

Then there is our centre-back predicament. Our club captain Koscielny has now left the club, we have future prospect William Saliba back at St Etienne and we couldn’t manage to sell Shkodran Mustafi for love nor money.

It has left us with the granite-tough Sokratis, the returning from loan Chambers and new boy David Luiz.

This isn’t the worst talent pool we have had to pick from in recent years, but when you recall how Holding was performing before his long-term injury struck him down – and how quickly he had adapted to Emery’s tactical changes – it shows that not only will he most likely find himself straight back in the team when he finds his feet – but how badly we miss him.

Could other teams cope with missing three of their first choice defenders?

Could Liverpool manage without Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold?

What about City and Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker and Zinchenko?

One at a time, maybe two at most, but all three?

We have been unable to push forward with our plans at the speed we should be. Unai Emery must be commended with coping without this talented trio and keeping us competitive and at the fighting end. It would be easy to stumble and drop points like it was going out of fashion, but it is noticeable that we have not needed to point at our missing players. We’ve simply got on with things and earned results when we’ve needed to.

Of course, our attack has bailed us out at times, but isn’t it testament to our squad depth that we are where we are, without three of our first choice defenders?

For the first time in countless seasons, we now have the substance in our squad pool to contend with the numerous injuries that befall an Arsenal squad. We now have ample cover and players who are malleable enough to mould themselves how Emery requires them.

It will take a few months until we see the best of Holding, Bellerin and Tierney. When they are fit though, we have a first eleven to challenge for honours.

I mean, just look at how well we’ve done without them…