Did Arsenal loan Kieran Tierney out as part of a bigger plan? The incredible theory of Mikel Arteta's 4D chess

Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney during the Arsenal Media Day at the Arsenal Training Ground at London Colney on August 01, 2022 in St Albans, England.
(Image credit: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

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'

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta looks on during the UEFA Champions League match between Sevilla FC and Arsenal FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on October 24, 2023 in Seville, Spain.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta played for La Real's B team, La Sanse (Image credit: Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

Arteta has deep-rooted connections to Real Sociedad. A Basque native himself, he came up through the club's famed academy as a youngster and played for them as a player after leaving Barcelona.

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. 

Martin Zubimendi of Real Sociedad during the La Liga match between Atletico de Madrid and Real Sociedad played at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on October 8 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Cesar Cebolla / Pressinphoto / Icon Sport)

Arsenal want Martin Zubimendi (Image credit: Getty Images)

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. 

Declan Rice celebrates his goal for Arsenal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in October 2023.

Declan Rice was expensive – but he still lacks a No.8 alongside him (Image credit: Getty Images)

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…

More Arsenal stories

Arsenal U18s' trip to Brighton was postponed on Saturday – after the team bus drove to the wrong ground.

Meanwhile, the Gunners are being linked with a big move for a £52m-rated talent.

And 'the new Erling Haaland' is also said to be on the North London club's radar.

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