Arsenal's Tierney 'the best overlapping centre-back in the world', says Scotland boss Clarke

Kieran Tierney, Arsenal 2021-22Getty

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has explained how he convinced Arsenal's Kieran Tierney to convert from a left-back to a centre-back for the benefit of his country.

Tierney almost exclusively plays in the left side of the defence for his club but reinvented himself for the sake of the Tartan Army.

The defender has 29 international caps to his name and it's likely he wouldn't have as many if it weren't for his versatility.

What's been said?

Clarke said on the High Performance Podcast: “Between November and March I was thinking about what we were good at. Defensively we weren’t great and needed a change.

"I phoned my coaches and said ‘we can’t go with a back four, I want to go with a back three’. I had never coached a back three in my life so it was a challenge for me and my coaches.

“The personnel we had – we had two of the best left-backs in world football, Tierney and Robertson, and had to figure out how to get them in the team.

"At that moment I didn’t think the centre-back options were great, so let’s pick three and see if that makes it better!

“My idea was that Tierney could play centre-back and I had this mad idea that Scott McTominay could play as one of the others.

"I had good midfield players and I wanted to get three or four into the team but had nothing great up front really.

“I had a really good conversation with Tierney to tell him he was going to be the best left-sided centre-back that Scotland had ever had."

Clarke added: "A myth had built up around Kieran that he didn’t want to come and play with the national team, which wasn’t correct.

"But I think he always felt that he was a better left-back than Andy Robertson. Every player thinks they’re better than the immediate competition and if you compare them, there isn’t a cigarette paper between them.

“I had to persuade Kieran that he was better than Andy and that’s why I trusted him to play left centre-back and not Andy. Now, that’s probably not strictly true but that’s how I had to sell it to Kieran.

"Now we’ve got the best overlapping centre-back in world football. It works.

“Selling that position to Kieran was important and it was a really good conversation, he asked a lot of really good questions.

"I told him I loved him and I wanted him to play there."

Tierney's season at Arsenal

Tierney's made 20 appearances across all competitions for the Gunners, netting a single effort while grabbing three assists.

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The Scotsman's ankle injury back in November saw him temporarily miss matches before having to sit on the bench until early December.

Once Tierney proved his fitness again, he hasn't missed a fixture since, regaining Mikel Arteta's confidence in him.

Further reading