Tierney’s response to being dropped proves Arteta has completed plan

Mikel Arteta reviews Bodø/Glimt victory

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta knew he had to have a major overhaul of the club’s playing staff when he was appointed in late 2019. The squad now bears little resemblance to what he was provided with when replacing Unai Emery and he has finally got a group of players who are totally on his side.

Kieran Tierney’s reaction to being dropped against Liverpool proves exactly that. The Scot thought he was a shoo-in to start the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s side last weekend.

Oleksandr Zinchenko was absent through injury and Tierney had been taken off early in the Europa League win over Bodo/Glimt for what he thought was to preserve him for the huge Premier League clash. However, Arteta made a late call to play right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu on the opposite side of defence.

When Zinchenko is fit, he is the first-choice left-back for the Gunners. So Tierney would understandably be fuming that he didn’t play even with the Ukraine star unavailable.

Tierney has admitted he was “gutted” not to start at the Emirates. However, he refused to get angry and supported the manager’s decision, which proved successful in keeping Mohamed Salah quiet.

Tierney told Sky Sports: “I was thinking that I got taken off in the Thursday game maybe to keep me ready for the Sunday – and maybe that at the time was his plan as well.  Then, the day before the match, he said ‘it’s not on your performance, this is just a tactical change that I want to make.’

“I was like ‘I’m gutted’. I’m not going to be angry, I’m not going to not try hard, but I’m gutted because I want to play every opportunity I can. Especially the big games you want to play and you want to soak up the atmosphere.

“But there’s nothing I can say. We went out and won and Tomiyasu played amazing – the game plan worked! It just shows you because not many managers would think ‘let’s switch a right-back over here’, but he [Arteta] did and it worked.”

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Talk is sometimes cheap but there was a real sense of meaning in what Tierney said, understanding the decision made was in the best interests of the team. The togetherness at Arsenal is better than it has been in a long time.

Arteta has moved on a large number of big-name players in recent years who didn’t align with his way of thinking. It has taken almost three years for the Spaniard to compile a squad who are on his wavelength, which is half the battle.

There is still plenty of work to be done and nothing has been achieved yet. But there is a sense this is the start of something special at the Emirates.

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