Arsenal star Kieran Tierney is currently on loan in Spain with Real Sociedad.
The Scottish international lost his place in the Gunners team to new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko at the start of last season, thanks to the Ukrainian's ability to invert from left-back. A previously untouchable player for Mikel Arteta, Tierney left in search of more minutes and to get up to speed after a season on the sidelines.
But is there a bigger reason that he moved there? Has Arteta sent Tierney to San Sebastian for a specific reason? And not just because there are more Michelin-starred restaurants in the Basque city than anywhere else in Europe, of course.
Arsenal could have sent Kieran Tierney to Real Sociedad as 'relationship builder'
That's a coincidence, however – at least in this theory. Tierney was a key player for a number of years under Arteta, reportedly of interest to the likes of Aston Villa and Newcastle United before the leftfield move of going to La Liga. Why did the Gunners send him to the Anoeta Stadium?
Well, with Arsenal reportedly interested in a Real Sociedad star, perhaps there's an answer there. As per 90min and several others, the Gunners want Martin Zubimendi, and perhaps giving the Basque side Tierney on loan – which seemed to come out of nowhere – was a sweetener.
There's no suggestion that Arsenal could give La Real a player with the expectation of receiving one in return but this kind of relationship-building certainly does no harm – and it's something that's been hinted at in the past from the Gunners.
When signing Brazilian youngster Marquinhos, who was soon-to-be out of contract, "Arsenal opted to pay a minimal fee to get the signing done and build a relationship with Sao Paulo," as per OneFootball, recognising that trying to build rapport with a talent factory club would help them in the future. They attempted to do the same with Brighton after signing Benjamin White and Leandro Trossard, returning on Deadline Day of January this year for Moises Caicedo – though misjudged the situation wildly, angering the Seagulls with their persistence.
This idea that Arsenal planned to raid La Real later on would certainly explain a lot about the summer's business. At the start of the window, Arsenal were linked with four players: Kai Havertz, Jurrien Timber, Declan Rice and Romeo Lavia. Three of those moves were done in the early weeks.
But there was a feeling that Rice was signed for far more than the Gunners expected to pay. In early June, Arsenal thought they could sign him for £90 million – some £15m less than they paid – while the number of instalments was reduced to just three, meaning that they had to put a lot more money upfront to get their man.
Is it any wonder they abandoned their pursuit of Lavia? Perhaps not. Arsenal have lacked a natural No.8 all season as a result, first playing No.10s alongside Martin Odegaard, in Havertz and Fabio Vieira, before settling on Jorginho at No.6 and Rice at No.8. It also explains why Thomas Partey remained in the squad, despite being linked with an exit early on in the window.
Perhaps Arteta knew he'd have to wait for another midfielder, rather than sign Lacia. And with Tierney leaving the Emirates Stadium late in the window (he played in the Community Shield), maybe Real Sociedad was chosen as a good destination to send a player to, to stand the Gunners in good stead later down the line…
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