Mikel Arteta issued an unmistakable message regarding transfers to Edu Gaspar and the Arsenal board through his team choice for the final match of the season against Wolves. Even though there was no substantial prize at stake, it was an opportunity to cap off a generally triumphant and delightful season in grand fashion.
Just a month back, the match with Wolves, managed by Julen Lopetegui, seemed like it could have been a title decider, but Arsenal had nothing to demonstrate on the day. Amidst a spirited Emirates Stadium audience and supportive fans, the occasion called for gratitude and recognition.
However, Arteta didn’t go easy for this match. He selected what can be considered his top team. With a reorganized defence that saw Thomas Partey stepping in as right-back, the formation remained similar to the one deployed against Nottingham Forest, albeit with a tactical change.
This meant that Ben White was shifted back to centre defence, where he has excelled this season, partnering with Gabriel Magalhaes. Meanwhile, the forward line and midfield were stacked. The decision to rearrange the defence seemed unnecessary.
By keeping natural left-back Kieran Tierney on the bench again, Arteta seemed to convey a lack of faith in the Scottish player. Instead, Jakub Kiwior, a January signing, was chosen. He had been utilized more centrally since joining, but his role appears to be changing now.
Given Arteta’s preference for narrow full-backs that drift into midfield during build-ups, Kiwior seems to be a better fit. However, he didn’t feature much against Forest due to a lack of service. This situation raises questions about Tierney’s form and why he’s not being selected. Either way, it’s an ominous sign for the 25-year-old.
With three years still remaining on his contract, the apparent lack of trust in his ability to fulfil Arteta’s directives could have significant implications this summer. As fans anticipate a busy and thrilling transfer window, it might signal the end of Tierney’s tenure in north London.
Purchased for £23m, injury interruptions have prevented him from maintaining the consistency and excellence that once made him one of the top young offensive full-backs in the game. As Arteta’s strategy has evolved and Tierney’s playing time decreased, his departure seems increasingly probable.
Arteta’s public actions and decisions seem to confirm this, suggesting that Tierney might have played his last match for the club.
Tierney was selected to start against Brighton but struggled in a demoralizing 3-0 loss and has been marginal since. Arteta seemed to acknowledge his mistake from the Forest match by introducing Tierney as an offensive substitution with 30 minutes remaining at the City Ground, but it was a case of too little, too late.