This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
After conceding 51 goals in the Premier League and seeing his first-choice left back spend more time attacking than defending, it has been no surprise to see Unai Emery be on the look-out for a bona fide star in that oh-so troublesome position.
Reports in recent weeks have suggested that the Gunners’ first-choice target for that position is Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, but after having their first bid rejected, Football Scotland now report the north London side have seen a second offer worth £17.5m knocked back as well.
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Despite seemingly being denied a second time there remains hope that the Gunners will eventually get their man, and after looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why the 22-year-old is such an attractive option for Emery.
In numbers collected from Celtic and Arsenal’s runs in the Europa League this season, Tierney comfortably outshines his Bosnian counterpart in the defensive categories. One of Kolasinac’s major weaknesses last season were his suspect abilities going back towards his own goal, often leaving his side exposed in transition and showing very questionable marking.
Tierney’s average of 1.7 tackles per game betters Kolasinac’s solitary tackle per match, but it is the interception numbers that really show the kind of front-foot positional defending the Scotsman thrives in. His 2.2 interceptions far outclass the Arsenal left-back’s measly efforts of 0.9, and are an indication that he reads the game far better than the 26-year-old.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Emery is looking to get a deal done for Tierney is the freedom it would give him in possibly reverting back to his favoured back-four. The Spaniard is particularly known for his fondness for the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-3-3 but such were the Gunners’ defensive shortcomings that he eventually settled on a back-five last season.
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But don’t just mistake Tierney for being a far better defender than Kolasinac. Whilst the latter marginally beats him by 0.4 for key passes per game, the Scotland international comes into his own whilst his team are in possession.
His 1.2 dribbles per match offered Celtic an extra attacking outlet and someone who could beat a man just like a normal winger would, whilst his average of 61 passes per game is a mind-blowing 25.4 more than the Gunners defender.
The ‘Arsenal way’ under Arsene Wenger was to be good on the ball and quick on the attack, and Tierney ticks both boxes. The ‘Arsenal way’ under George Graham was being defensively sound and strong in the tackle, and yet again Tierney meets both requirements. So, if Emery can get his man, he may just have landed himself the ultimate combination of the archetypal Arsenal left-back.