Kieran Tierney by Glen Goddard

Scottish football has historically received criticism over the quality of football compared to other nations’ first divisions. But the Scottish Premier League has never been short of talent. The latest player to gather international scouts’ attention, especially Arsenal’s is the 22-year-old energetic left-back, Kieran Tierney. In this individual analysis, we’ll discover what makes him a top fullback, and what could be expected from him in the future. 


Tactical Versatility

With Celtic lining up in a variety of formations such as a 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-1-1  – it’s Tierney’s ability to play in defensive and attacking fullback roles to such a high standard that allows him to be so useful. His ability to play as a left-back supporting his midfield in transition is great. What is equally impressive is his ability to play as a left wing-back with no player ahead of him, something you usually see, with the 3-4-3 system become a trend in the last few years. 

Tierney started 76% of games at LB and the remaining 14% at LWB. Underlining his versatility. 

This image is the tactical shape’s Celtic used vs Leipzig. 

Tierney is number 63 for Celtic. All through the game, he was the only player on the left-wing. In the first half, he played as a left-back with the task of supporting his midfield in transition. 

In the second half, he was pivotal in the formation change. With Celtic going to a 3-5-1-1 in attempt to press more efficiently, Tierney pressed higher up the pitch. This aided his team massively in the press, allowing his side to trap Leipzig higher up the pitch. Or, setting up in a low block, which closed any space for the adventurous RB Leipzig to exploit. 


What can he offer?

Sprint speed, work rate, and intelligence are the best three ingredients Tierney has to offer. 

Kieran Tierney possesses very good pace. This allows him to be an even better player. He can make decisions at a fast pace, anticipate attacking situations, and attack players at speed. A combination that makes for a world-class full-back. 


An Eye For A Pass

Like most top fullbacks, Tierney has an excellent eye for a pass – something incredibly vital for any attacking left-back that allows them to impact any big game. 

Tierney has the ability to draw players in with his direct dribbling, this often opens up space for him to exploit. With an impressive pass success ratio of 80.4%, Tierney is a trusted and safe passer. With 8.38 passes into the final third per game, it’s proven that Kieran Tierney is a progressive passer who will pass into dangerous zones when the opportunity arises. 

Credit: Evening Standard 


Direct Comparison: Robertson v Tierney

With two special talents playing in one position, Scotland will have a tough job trying to decide who to play. Statistically, it’s a closely fought battle. With Andrew Robertson winning some, and Tierney winning another set of key stats. Lets’ compare some of the more important stats for fullbacks and we’ll let  you decide for yourself. 


Expected Assists

Expected assists is a metric that is becoming more common as the days go by. It is a metric based on the quality of chances. Roberton everso slightly wins this one. With an expected assist of 8.04 compared to Tierney’s 7.96. This metric predicted correctly, with Robertson boasting 8 assists over Tierney’s rightly so, predicted 7. This stat rightly so shows that Robertson is better going forward, and is a much more potent threat in the cross. 


Crosses per 90

Tierney actually delivers more crosses per game than Robertson. Tierney whips in 4.41 crosses per game, as opposed to Robertson’s 3.73. Obviously Robertson’s quality in crossing is slightly better than Tierney. 


Dribbles per 90

Nowadays the ability to dribble is becoming more and more beneficial as a full back (something Wan-Bissaka struggles with, along with crossing and I still fail to see the hype around him). Tierney has an impressive 4.26 per game. Robertson is a much more old-fashioned fullback and doesn’t boast such skills in his repertoire with just 1.61 per game.  

All in all, both Robertson and Tierney are pretty evenly matched and both bring a unique set of characteristics to their position. It will be a different opinion from every fan on who is better, but both have an argument to be backed for. 


Defensive Ability

With 18.53 duels won per game, Tierney is a composed defender. 8.04 recoveries in the oppositions half is something Tierney also possesses, his work rate supplemented by his clean tackling makes him an impressive defender. 

Tierney’s heat-map, such an impressive image. 

Above is Tierney’s heat-map. this image underlines his extraordinary work-rate. 

Kieran is a great ball-winner. With 5.06 interceptions per-game, he can win the ball back with his fast interceptions. His pace allows him to be an asset in attacking and defensive phases. Exactly the kind of player most managers would love in their teams. 


My View:

At just 22, Kieran is ready to ply his trade in a top 6 Premier League side. With the ability to attack at pace, win the ball, and whip in crosses all throughout the 90. There is a real demand for complete fullbacks, and we would say that Kieran Tierney definitely ticks that box. 

And with Robertson the competition for the left-back role in the Scottish national team, Kieran certainly has the motivation to move to the Premier League. And if he does, he could be one of the best left-backs in world football as he’ll playing with and against higher quality footballers. Arsenal would be silly to not follow through with this deal. Especially with how low his price is in comparison to that of the current market. 

Author: Glen Goddard (

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