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Kieran Tierney needs just one thing to be a legend

Kieran Tierney has hardly played in his first season at Arsenal. And yet, from his brief appearances and the way he speaks, he needs just one thing to one day become a legend of the club.

Kieran Tierney has made just 12 appearances for Arsenal football club. One of those came for the under-23s. Including the under-23 match against Wolves in October, he has played 806 minutes of football this season. It is not the type of return you expect on a £25 million investment.

It is also not the sample size required to draw meaningful conclusions regarding his quality of play, his character, his ability to perform in the Premier League, a league he never competed in prior to his north London switch, or his fit in the squad and team, under either Unai Emery or now Mikel Arteta, who is still yet to make an appearance with.

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And yet, despite all these stated facts, there is something about Tierney that is inherently inspiring and attractive. He tucks his shirt into his shorts in a wonderful throwback manner. He never wears gloves or long sleeves or even trackies to training, stating recently, ‘I will always wear shorts in training! I’ve done it so long now I’d be scared to change.’

When Gabriel Martinelli, a teammate he recently championed as having the potential to be a  ‘world-class player for many years’, went down under a particularly nasty challenge against Standard Liege, it was Tierney who was first to the scene, shouting at Liege defender Mergim Vojvoda as he stuck up for his crocked teammate, curled up on the floor.

It is little instances and quirks like this that make you think Tierney is different to the modern-day footballer. He has conjured up a special relationship with Hector Bellerin. Rob Holding recently said this about the Scottish defender:

“Kieran’s a good Scottish lad who brings a bit of banter to the team. He and I are getting on really well, you couldn’t ask for a better way for him to settle in. He’s a top-quality lad and he’s a great lift in the changing room as well. He’s a really nice guy.”

And then Tierney said this in a recent ‘Ask me Anything’ on Reddit. When asked what his favourite thing about living in London is, Tierney answered:

“Playing for Arsenal. I didn’t move to Arsenal to live in London. I came here to London so I could play for Arsenal.”

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These are only little things that may not mean much to the external eye. The analytics might be pulling their hair out at championing someone for their ‘banter’ or sticking up for a teammate when they get kicked or tucking his shirt in, but these character traits are important. They help lift a squad, inspire a team, and change the culture of the club, something that has been much-needed at Arsenal for many years.

It helps, of course, that Tierney has impressed in his brief outing. No player has created more chances from open play per 90 minutes than him this season. His crossing was exemplary and he showed a terrific attitude and aggression when defending. He just needs one more thing to one day become an Arsenal legend: fitness.

Tierney has played so few games this season because of injury. He has missed 28 games through injury this season. He arrived having undergone a sports hernia operation at the end of last season and then dislocated his shoulder in December. He has not played since.

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Tierney has the character, the quality, the belief, and the passion to be a true fan favourite. He now just needs the fitness.

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