Kieran Tierney sends timely message to Mikel Arteta as Oleksandr Zinchenko nears Arsenal return

Kieran Tierney stepped up with his best display of the season  (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Kieran Tierney stepped up with his best display of the season (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

With Oleksandr Zinchenko finally back fit, Arsenal’s game against FC Zurich was an ideal time for Kieran Tierney to put in his best performance of the season.

It has not been an easy campaign for the Scot so far, who has had to cope with no longer being one of the first names on Mikel Arteta’s team sheet.

Zinchenko’s arrival from Manchester City has put pay to that, while Takehiro Tomiyasu has also excelled when shifted from right to left-back.

That has meant chances have been limited for Tierney and he has had to rely on the Europa League for opportunities to shine.

He certainly did that against Zurich, scoring the only goal of the game and creating plenty of other chances for his team-mates throughout.

In the end, Tierney’s goal proved to be a priceless one for Arsenal as it means they finished top of their Europa League group and get a bye straight to the last-16. In this packed season, being able to avoid playing two extra games feels like a huge bonus.

Arteta would have liked a more comfortable night’s work than this, especially as Arsenal travel to Chelsea on Sunday, but the Gunners never quite clicked into gear.

Tierney was the brightest spark on the night, even more so than the Zurich away end - which seemed to forever have a flare going off.

The left-back signalled his intent early on, taking his opposite number on whenever he could and getting the ball into the box.

Fittingly it was Tierney who opened the scoring. Arsenal got in down the right as Ben White and Reiss Nelson combined and, when the ball eventually found its way to Tierney on the edge of the box, he lashed it into the bottom corner.

The joy it brought the Scot was clear to see as he ran off towards the halfway line, punching the air in delight. Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale ran all the way to meet Tierney, embracing him when they met.

Perhaps there was a little bit of frustration in that Tierney celebration, but if he is feeling like that then he is channeling it in the right way. The left-back was excellent here tonight and after his goal his confidence only grew.

Three or four times he put in great crosses during the first-half and, had Arsenal’s forwards been more clinical, this game would have been put to bed at the break.

As it was, the game wasn’t and Arsenal, Tierney included, had to dig deep in the final few minutes to make sure they got the win they needed.

In the end, it was a case of job done and that went for Tierney too, who has given Arteta some food for thought about who should be his starting left-back.