Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Tierney, Real Madrid, and the inevitability of rumours

Morning all.

It’s interesting to see transfer chatter regarding Kieran Tierney and Real Madrid. Personally, I don’t think there’s much to it, for a number of reasons. First up, I don’t know the provenance of the original rumour and it’s fair to say that in Spain there’s a reliability scale that is very fluid, to say the least.

With four daily newspapers covering football, plus all the more modern media competing for hits and clicks, there’s just so much #content out there it’s very hard to separate the wheat from the chaff because there are literal mountains of chaff. Chances are that this is verging on the side of chaff, even if the idea that Real Madrid might want a good player isn’t exactly far-fetched.

Then there’s the fact that Arsenal gave Tierney a new long-term contract last season, an obvious indication that they want him to be a key part of this project. Things can change quickly in football, but over the course of five transfer windows Mikel Arteta has spent most of his time trying to build a platform to make the team more secure. Having a regular back four + goalkeeper has been part of that, and I don’t think he’d be inclined to to break that up.

Not least because Tierney’s defensive performances this season have been very good and very consistent. If there were concerns expressed about his form at times, I think it was more to do with the fact he doesn’t make as many eye-catching contributions in the final third as he used to. For me there are a couple of reasons for this. One is that the absence of Takehiro Tomiyasu has caused a bit of a tilt in the team, where the more attacking full-back is now Cedric while Tierney stays deeper to provide that balance.

The other is that we don’t need him to do it as much as we did in the past. There’s more threat coming from our wide areas than we had before. Emile Smith Rowe has taken a real step forward this season from an attacking perspective, and he plays mostly on the left, and the same can be said for Gabriel Martinelli. You need your left back to get forward, of course, but there’s much less reliance on that now whereas previously he was a more important part of how we attacked teams.

As a defender though, he’s been excellent. The opposition don’t get a lot of joy down that side of the pitch these days, and that kind of consistency is exactly what you need. Players who will give you a 7/10 minimum every time. A bit like Nacho Monreal before him, there’s a reliability to his defensive displays which provide the kind of building blocks for the team Mikel Arteta is trying to build.

The last factor in this is the captaincy. When Alexandre Lacazette comes off to be replaced by Eddie Nketiah, the armband goes to Tierney which is – to me at least – an indication that he’s in pole position for the job next season. I think there are other candidates, Martin Odegaard and Ben White could easily be considered, but I reckon it’ll go to Tierney, and there’s just something about him as a personality and a character that makes me think he’ll be here in the long-term. The club suits him, he suits the club, and hopefully there are many more happy years ahead. Not to mention the fact that even if you did ‘double your money’, you need to bring in a replacement of some kind, and in a summer where I think the transfer emphasis is going to be at the other end of the pitch, it seems like an unnecessary complication .

Perhaps Real Madrid might test our mettle with a bid that makes us think, but I’m not convinced. They’ll spend their money elsewhere this summer, even Kylian Mbappe on a  free transfer will put a big dent in the coffers of a club who were so broke a year ago they desperately tried to make the Super League happen – hanging on when pretty much everyone else realised the game was up (for this iteration of that abomination of an idea anyway). They need to do more about an aging midfield than left-back too, so I just don’t see it.

What I will say is this though: the fact that Arsenal players are being linked with ‘big’ clubs is positive. Most of these links are completely spurious at this point, but we’ve gone through a period when we (mostly) had motley collection of players nobody wanted, and when you look at the squad now, you can see a collection of young talented guys who would obviously be attractive to other sides. While it might be a pain to have to deal with these rumours – which can sometimes be unsettling – it’s a far better position to be in than the alternative.

Good players are coveted by other teams, it’s as simple as that. In the Wenger heyday, there were plenty of rumours around our top players, but the fact it all played out in a pre-social media age made it easier to deal with. I shudder to think about how some of these scenarios might have played out on Twitter etc, but the bottom line is everyone wants talent, and we seem to have plenty of that right now. Hence the rumours around Tierney, and while they might worry some people, I much prefer this to a situation where we can find no way to get rid of players we don’t want and who can’t improve us.

Right, I’ll leave it there for now. There’s a brand new Arsecast Extra for you below – happy listening!

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