Arsenal may be flying high at the top of the Premier League table but it’s not been plain sailing for every player.
One of those is Kieran Tierney.
Injured for a chunk of pre-season and facing competition for a starting place from new boy Oleksandr Zinchenko and, most recently, Takehiro Tomiyasu, the Scotland international has been in and out of the side during the opening 11 games.
While the only match he’s sat out completely was the 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford, he’s only completed 90 minutes twice and amassed a total of 427 minutes on the pitch.
“It’s been tough,” Tierney told Arsenal.com when asked to assess the opening quarter of the season.
“I missed pre-season coming back from an injury, and the first game I played in was the Palace one – that was the first week of training that I had.
“I’ve just been trying to get minutes here and there so it’s been a tough start, but whether I’m first, second or third-choice, I’m just going to keep working hard and see where it takes me.”
On Sunday, Mikel Arteta made the bold decision to bench Tierney despite Zinchenko being injured. For the first time since his arrival from Bologna, Tomiyasu was given the nod on the left, albeit with a specific remit to keep Liverpool’s Mo Salah quiet.
Given his impressive performance, it raises the prospect of the Japan international, who was nominally signed as a right-back, competing more often with Tierney on the left.
Reacting to the increased competition, Tierney said: “I wouldn’t say [competition] motivates me more, as whether I’m the only left-back or there’s five left-backs, I’m still motivated to play and to do well.
“Day-to-day, nothing changes in my life; if I’m playing or not I’m just working as hard as I possibly can. I train hard, and if the manager calls on me, I’m ready.
“I want to play every game possible, when you don’t play like all footballers, you’re disappointed but when you get your chance, you just need to make sure you go and take it.”
Tierney is expected to start tomorrow’s clash with Bodo/Glimt in Norway. He could in theory line up with Tomiyasu inside him at centre-back and Rob Holding and Cedric on the other side of defence.