These have been strangely difficult days for Tierney, who now finds himself in the unfamiliar role of backup after an entire career of being the first choice at his position. He is a key member of that squad but Arteta’s new demands for a left-back – tucked into midfield, rarely overlapping – are at odds with the Scotsman’s usual style.
A disappointing time on an individual level, then, even if it’s a hugely exciting time for Arsenal collectively. Perhaps it was frustration that strained Tierney’s left thigh after 18 minutes of action here, as he unleashed his shot with a ferocity that proved too much for Zurich goalkeeper, Yank Bracher.
While he appears to have fallen in the pecking order behind Oleksandr Zinchenko and Takehiro Tomiyoshi at left back, the feeling remains that Tierney will still have plenty to contribute this season. Few players in the Premier League offer his level of aggression, dynamism and sheer competitiveness.
Tierney appeared to be allowed to get forward on occasion, rather than doubling up as a holding midfielder, and should have ended the first half with a goal to his name. Had Fabio Vieira connected better with Tierney’s low cross, Arsenal would have been two goals clear by the break.
There were other chances for Arteta in the first half, with Eddy Naketia going close from a corner and Gabriel Jesus inadvertently blocking Vieira’s goal-bound shot. Jesus wore the captain’s armband here – another sign of how quickly he has adapted to his new club since his summer move – but Arsenal’s accidental goal denial sealed his fate for the moment. Summarized.
The goals are not coming in for the Brazilian but more worrying will be if his all-round game is suffering as well. Far from it. Jesus was as creative and restless as ever in attack here, producing all the flicks and turns that have made him a fan favorite in just a few months in North London.
Arsenal certainly deserved their lead but Arteta knew that, the longer it stayed at 1-0, the more nervous they would become. He quickly turned to his bench, deploying both Thomas Partey and Bokaio Saka, who have made a swift recovery from the injury against Nottingham Forest this weekend.
The uncertainty of the scoreline was reflected in a sudden chance for Zurich. A rare attack ended with the ball falling to Antonio Marchesano, whose strike forced Aaron Ramsdale into a fine save in the Arsenal goal.
Arms wasn’t exactly on the ropes, but it was getting awkward fast. Zurich had nothing to lose and the home side began to shrink. An injury to Tomiyasu, as a substitute, will be a concern, as will Arsenal’s inability to gain control in the latter stages. However, they hung on to secure that prized top spot.
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