Arsenal got the better of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon, coming from behind to win 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
After falling behind to Erik Lamela’s expertly taken opener, the Gunners, who return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening when they face Olympiacos at the Emirates Stadium in the second-leg of their last-16 showdown, turned the game on its head thanks to goals either side of half time from Martin Odegaard and Alexandre Lacazette.
Although the victory, which secured Arsenal their first win over Spurs since December 2018, did not move them above tenth in the Premier League table, it did ensure they kept themselves in the running to secure Europa League football ahead of next season.
With ten games of the Premier League season to go, Mikel Arteta’s side find themselves five points behind sixth-placed Liverpool, meaning their aspirations of finishing in the top-six this season are far from over.
Despite falling behind against Spurs on Sunday, the Gunners, certainly for the most part, were the more dominant of the two sides, regularly looking the more likely to score. Time and time again the Gunners were getting down their left-flank, targeting Gareth Bale and Matt Doherty, and causing endless problems through Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe.
While Smith Rowe has not had a tendency for regularly playing out wide this season, Tierney has got better and better as the season has gone on when getting forward from left-back. The vast majority of Arsenal’s attacks come down their left hand side with Tierney the architect-in-chief.
During his first two seasons at the Emirates Stadium, the Scotland international has continued to go from strength-to-strength, cementing himself as one of the most valuable players within Arteta’s squad.
And his performance against Spurs on Sunday afternoon drew special praise from former Gunners centre-back Martin Keown, who waxed lyrical about the way the former Celtic man had combined with Smith Rowe on the left flank.
Keown told BBC Sport: “[Kieran] Tierney and [Emile] Smith Rowe, the positions they took up, were outstanding.
“He [Tierney] kept finding him into the pockets of space and pulling Tottenham’s midfield wide where they didn’t want to go, [Gareth] Bale didn’t offer anything defensively.
“Eventually, that’s where the goal comes from because they’re providing all the time.”
Keown is not the first pundit, player or manager to have waxed lyrical about Tierney’s qualities, with the Scot having won numerous plaudits in recent months, including from Tottenham Hotspur head coach Jose Mourinho.
Another former Arsenal player, however, who agrees with Keown about the runs Tierney is capable of making and getting into the right positions is former left-back Ashley Cole.
The former England international heaped praise on the attack-minded full-back in July last year as the 2019/20 Premier League season edged towards its conclusion.
“I think one thing that Arsenal were probably lacking in the past year was a left-back who was solid, didn’t get beaten in one-versus-one situations – he doesn’t get beat in one-v-one situations,” said Cole, as quoted by TEAMtalk. “But I also think the way he attacks and the timing of his attacking runs, it brings a different element to Arsenal and a different way to attack.
“And he’s got a great delivery on him, as we just saw earlier, a great ball in that ended up with a corner. So he’s been very good for Arsenal I think.
“He’s been solid. He came to Arsenal with high expectations, watching him at Celtic he was brilliant. And then he came carrying an injury, he didn’t start the season and now he’s starting to get back to fitness and, for me, being a star of this Arsenal defence.
“Whether he plays in a three of just as an out-and-out left-back, I think he has top qualities. He can play into a striker, he can join the attacks well, he’s got quality of pass, he can defend in one-v-one situations.
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“He seems like a defender that doesn’t want to be beaten, he’s not happy when crosses go in. So I think for Arsenal he’s a great player. Not one for the future, but of course he can improve, but he’s been brilliant so far for Arsenal.”
For Tierney to have earned such high levels of praise from two of Arsenal’s greatest defenders in their history speaks volumes about the Scot’s talents. He has continued to go from strength-to-strength this season and certainly has shown all of the required credentials to get even better with age.
This term, Tierney has racked up 30 appearances for the Gunners, scoring two goals and claiming four assists, which in truth, are numbers that do not do his performances justice.