Arsenal were waiting on Friday night to discover whether Kieran Tierney has been cleared to play at Manchester City on Saturday, with player and club feeling confident he will be allowed to curtail a 14-day spell of self-isolation.
The availability of Tierney would be a boost for Mikel Arteta, who said on Thursday he would be “extremely disappointed” if the defender was unable to participate at the Etihad. Tierney was required to quarantine for two weeks from last Tuesday after he was deemed to have been in close contact with Stuart Armstrong, who tested positive for Covid-19, while on Scotland duty.
Arsenal argued robustly that Tierney, who subsequently returned negative coronavirus tests and said he had been socially distanced from Armstrong at all times, should be allowed to return to England. Initially their discussions with the Lothian Health Protection Team, the Scottish government and the Scottish FA bore little fruit, but by Friday there was fresh optimism that the situation would be resolved and Tierney is understood to have been positive about his prospects of playing.
It is understood Tierney would take a further Covid-19 test on returning to Arsenal and there are also no guarantees he will start the game given he has not trained or played over the past 10 days.
The Celtic manager Neil Lennon, who said Arsenal’s medical staff had informed his own club doctors of Tierney’s release, now expects Ryan Christie to receive similar dispensation for Sunday’s Old Firm derby with Rangers if the news is confirmed. Christie was also forced to self-isolate after being identified as a close contact of Tierney. “We would be very confused and want answers, that Kieran Tierney is allowed to play and Ryan has been refused to play,” Lennon said.
Reports in Scotland have suggested Tierney tested positive for Covid-19 two months ago, which could provide him with some level of immunity and may differentiate between the cases. That has not been confirmed, although Arteta did say Arsenal felt confident of Tierney’s release given “the history of the player and what happened in the last few months with him as well”.
As well as assessing Tierney’s match fitness, Arteta must decide whether to plunge Thomas Partey straight into action against a City midfield lacking Kevin De Bruyne. Much is expected of Partey, the £45m deadline day signing from Atlético Madrid, but he only arrived at the club on Tuesday after completing 90 minutes for Ghana against Qatar the previous evening.
Arteta has no doubt Arsenal have enlisted an elite performer but believes he will, nonetheless, need time to acclimatise. “Probably there is a lot of expectation but we have to always give some time to players to adapt,” he said. “The Spanish league and the Premier League are completely different, there are some big differences between Atléti’s style of play and ours as well.
“What is unquestionable is the quality of the player and the level he has been playing in the last five or six years. That obviously will be a big help and if he has the support of the coaching staff, players and fans that I can see, then obviously the adaptation will be quick.”
At 27, Partey is a relative rarity in arriving at Arsenal ready-made as a top-grade talent. “We need a balance between a lot of young players in breakthrough or development phases and others who are at the peak or twilight of their careers,” Arteta said.
“We believe he is the right recruit for us in terms of age, in terms of his history and career, where he has been educated, the amount of experience he has and the quality he has to adapt to our game model.”
As expected, Friday came and went without a loan move to the Championship for the centre-back William Saliba. The 19-year-old’s best hope of action appears, in the medium term at least, to be with Arsenal’s Under-23 side.