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Arsenal's Andrew Robertson! Tenacious Tierney would be a revelation at the Emirates

7:00 PM MYT 16/07/2019
Kieran Tierney Andrew Robertson Celtic Liverpool
Now is the time for the 22-year-old to prove what many at Celtic have been saying for years: that he can be one of the best left-backs in the world

Aberdeen fans looked on in disbelief as Kieran Tierney sprinted up the Hampden steps on May 27, 2017 at around 5pm, still fully kitted out – boots and all – after being rushed to hospital barely 90 minutes earlier following an ugly clash that left him with blood pouring from his mouth and a serious facial injury. 

That was not, however, sufficient to stop the defender, still under the influence of painkillers, racing back to the ground in time to join the celebrations as the Hoops lifted the Scottish Cup after a last-gasp Tom Rogic strike.

“Worth a broken jaw!” he tweeted in the aftermath of the game – and having witnessed his desire for success, it is easy to believe that he meant it.

If Arsenal are to finally remedy their lack of personality and will to win, then in Tierney they have found at least part of their antidote.

The Scottish left-back plays with the attitude of someone who genuinely loves being on the park, and that he can make a lucrative career from the game is simply a happy by-product. 

And as the Conor McGregor fan approaches his peak years of his professional life, it is time to prove what many around Celtic Park have been saying for years: that he can become one of the best in the world in his role.

“I saw in the first two days I was in charge that he will be a top player,” then-manager Brendan Rodgers said of him back in 2017. “Having worked with young players — and lots of them — and seen them grow and develop into top stars, there's no question about that.”

Arsenal, however, have rapidly established that Celtic will not be readily parted with their best academy product in generations.

The 22-year-old, who has already played with distinction all across the defensive line in his burgeoning career, has been valued at £25 million ($31m) by the Scottish champions, but while the Gunners are willing to meet that fee, the structure of payments has not met with approval from the Hoops.

And having seen other assets depart for relatively modest feeds in the recent past, most notably Virgil van Dijk, who moved to Southampton for just £13m, the Parkhead club will play hardball over a young man who has the potential to match the impact that countryman Andy Robertson has made in the Premier League.

Indeed, so strong has Tierney been during his young career, there is a very real debate in Scotland as to who is the better player.

With 78 appearances for Liverpool, as well as a Champions League winner’s medal, there is little doubt that Robertson, himself a former Celtic youth, is currently winning the argument, but Isle of Man-born Tierney will surely have his opportunity to respond in England’s top flight in the near future.

Comparisons between the pair are inevitable given their position and background, but while they are both modern, attacking full-backs, their strengths differ.

Robertson is the superior attacking player, offering the edge in terms of his crossing and speed going forward, but Tierney is arguably a more accomplished defensive force, with his reading of the game excellent for such a young player, allowing him to play in a variety of roles, while he is surprisingly accomplished in the air given he stands short of 6ft (1.83 metres).

The Celt also possesses a remarkable engine, which was used last season in a 3-4-3 formation similar to the one Unai Emery has often deployed at the Emirates, allowing him to shuttle back and forth relentlessly match after match after match.

He played virtually every fixture over a two-year period between the beginning of 2017 and the end of 2018, when he sustained a hip injury that saw him miss a significant proportion of last term.

It is more than just the system, though, that makes Arsenal a neat fit for the young Scotsman. Traditionally, the Gunners have been a team to enjoy a great deal of possession in the Premier League, similar to the way Celtic dominate games in Scotland. 

His attitude, though, is what can carry him to the top at the Emirates.

“He's got an incredible determination, an old-school determination,” Rodgers said. “He lives his life right, he doesn't drink or do stupid things. He's in every day training like a dog. He fights, he runs, he's aggressive. And he's a lovely boy.

“In modern-day football you have players who love football but don't necessarily love the club they play for. He's one of a small band who absolutely loves football – and he loves Celtic.”

For the good of his career, though, it is time to move on. He has hit a glass ceiling in Scotland, and while there is little doubt that he would happily play the duration of his career in Glasgow’s East End, if he is to realise his potential in the game, now is the time to go.

It will take an excellent offer to lure him away, though.

A boyhood Celtic fan, he joined the club at seven, was a ballboy on the famous 2012 night when Barcelona were defeated at Parkhead, and is idolised by the support due to the fully committed manner in which he applies himself in games. 

Truly, he is a supporter of the club first and a player second – but you’d still bank on him being willing to spill blood for the Arsenal cause. It's just his way.