Let’s be honest – the 2020/21 campaign was as bad as it’s got for Arsenal supporters for about as long as we can remember.
Arsenal missed out on European football (even with the invention of a brand new, inferior competition) for the first time in 25 years, they failed to defend the FA Cup, and were knocked out of the Europa League by former coach Unai Emery.
We’ll cut all Gunners fans some slack then, when it comes to looking forward to next season.
Unbelievably however, there is reason to be optimistic for the 2021/22 campaign. That rainbow at the end of a 12-month typhoon arrived in the form of a contract extension for immensely popular full-back Kieran Tierney.
The 24-year-old put pen to paper on a new five-year deal with the Gunners, tying his future to the north London club until 2026. The versatile defender has grown to become a leader in the Arsenal backline, and his performances, although hampered by injury, have been extremely consistent.
For all intents and purposes, he is way too good to be plying his trade within this current edition of Arsenal Football Club.
But this is from where the optimism stems: he has clearly been sold a project, and is willing to commit the next half-decade towards dragging the Gunners back to their heights of old.
The north Londoners are often linked with big names (which they inevitably miss out on) and subsequently, the internet is rife with ‘Almost Arsenal XI’s’, listing the stars who could have arrived.
There is something different about this current transfer window, though. Brighton starlet Ben White appears close to agreeing a £50m move to Arsenal, while links with Leicester City playmaker James Maddison won’t disappear.
Lille midfielder Renato Sanches is also a major target, while other top European and homegrown players are on the not-so-shortlist. A revolution is underway, and Tierney can sense it.
After all, it’s all well and good signing brand new, shiny players, but it’s no use splashing the cash if you can’t hold onto your current superstars. So, to the rest of Europe, and the stars of the game contemplating a move to Arsenal, this deal is a statement of intent: This club is moving forwards.
That’s not to underestimate what his extension means to the Gunners on the pitch and more accurately, to their defence. Arsenal are seriously lacking in leaders and characters you’d follow into battle, and the seeming departure of Granit Xhaka (welcome or not) leaves them even shorter of captain material.
For that reason alone, it was essential to make sure Tierney remained at the Emirates. He is a leader by example, both through his committed personality and his performances on the pitch. Not only that, he’s also a fine defender.
And make no mistake, the Scotland international is a captain in the making at Arsenal.
His attitude and desire to win is everything that has been missing at the club’s core in recent years. In the past, they’ve handed the armband to the most talented or the most dominant character in the dressing room, but it’s time to offer it out to the man who understands what his fanbase really wants.
Tierney is Arsenal’s left-back, centre-back, leader, inspiration and living evidence that this club wants to progress. That’s more than enough reason to be optimistic for next year.