There’s a lot to do to whip this Arsenal side into shape before turning them into a competitive force but instead of crying over this season as it slowly fizzles out, we should look ahead at the core of players emerging who could turn Arsenal into winners again.
Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Gabriel Magalhaes could form the nucleus of something special, there are even more waiting in reserve to gatecrash the party and all they need is a small, seemingly insignificant thing known as an opportunity. However, if you are looking for a throwback to another place and time, where aggression and desire were the names of the game, then Kieran Tierney stands out.
The Scot has become an Arsenal favourite in double quick time for his fearless displays, winning mentality, and never say die attitude, not to mention his humble image which makes him a highly marketable player in a world of ordinary personalities.
I set myself a challenge as I began writing this, to recall another Arsenal player in recent years who was a decent footballer but didn’t mind a decent scrap and the only name I could come up with was Patrick Vieira.
Like Kieran Tierney, there was no questioning Vieira’s skills but he could get deep down and dirty if he had to and I don’t think it’s exaggerative to say that he was a warrior. Vieira was a physical competitor who battled with the likes of Roy Keane from 1996 into the early naughties, he brought attitude in abundance and wanted to win whatever the cost.
If Arsenal require reinvention, then they need someone who will lead by example, who will scream and shout, communicate and motivate and cajole others into giving everything they have in the tank. That man is Kieran Tierney.
He is the heir apparent to the captaincy and although he has had fitness issues, when he plays, he plays with heart. It’s a rare gift to find in one so young that immersed themselves completely for the duration of the match regardless of any personal cost.
This soft-bellied side requires a backbone in more ways than one and Kieran Tierney is happy to bring that to the table genuinely and naturally. It’s part of who he is, how he plays and it’s contained in his DNA. If you look at the Premiership as a whole, no one comes remotely close to the Scot, he is a cut above in all departments and young enough to become one of the best players in the world.
He’d almost certainly walk into any top side in this country or anywhere else. He might need a few years to perfect his defensive skills further but in attack, he’s the real deal delivering quality balls or plundering the goal himself when he can’t trust anyone else to do the job.
Arsenal owe it to the fans to build a squad befitting of the young talent in its ranks, one that can challenge for top honours, but also to prevent the exodus that befell Arsene Wenger as the realisation of one trophyless season after another unfolded in the second phase of his era in charge.