HE may not have featured in the first team regularly when he was at Highbury as a teenager back in the early 1990s.

Yet, Paul Dickov still shared a dressing room with the likes of Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, Paul Merson, David O’Leary, Ray Parlour, David Seaman, Nigel Winterburn and Ian Wright.

So it is safe to say that he knows a great Arsenal player and a great Arsenal captain when he sees one.

Dickov believes that Kieran Tierney - who has been integral to the success which his former club, who are in fourth place in the Premier League with 10 games remaining and in with a great chance of securing Champions League qualification, have enjoyed this season – is both.

The Scot is in no doubt that his countryman, who donned the skipper’s armband in the second-half of the league win over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday when Alexandre Lacazette was substituted, is going to be the long-term successor to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

He feels that Mikel Arteta must make keeping Tierney, who has been linked with Real Madrid in recent weeks, in north London a priority if he is to build on the progress which has been made during the last seven months and turn his side a major force in English football once again.

“Kieran Tierney's just a wonderful player, not just as a defender,” said Dickov at an OLBG media event. “But it's very rare you see a defender who likes to defend as well. The modern defender prefers to play out and higher up the pitch, but Kieran thrives on his defensive duties.

“He's got so much quality going forward and without sounding disrespectful to Arsenal, I'm amazed that there weren’t more clubs in for him.

“I've watched him from a young age at Celtic and when he signed for Arsenal, I thought that was a fantastic signing. You could see at a young age the quality he had, he brings so much to the team and he's a leader. He's a winner and I think going forward he's going to be made Arsenal captain.”

Tierney, who was signed from Celtic for a Scottish record £25m fee back in 2019, put pen to paper on a new £110,000-a-week contract extension that ties him to Emirates Stadium club until 2026 last summer.

But Spanish giants Real Madrid, whose manager Carlo Ancelotti is an admirer of the left back, could test Arsenal’s resolve by tabling a substantial bid for him after the 2021/22 campaign ends.

Dickov, the former Manchester City, Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers striker, is confident that Tierney is capable of playing for the 13-time Champions League winners and current La Liga leaders at the Bernabeu.

However, he has urged ex-Rangers midfielder Arteta to do everything he can to prevent that transfer from happening. 

“I think Kieran would cope anywhere, not only because of his ability, but because of his professionalism and his attitude,” he said. “He does everything right and he works really hard on his game.

“But if I'm being honest, I'll be amazed if Arsenal let him go. Mikel Arteta is building something there at the minute, it's a good young side with a mix of experience in it.

“I think I can see Kieran Tierney being Arsenal captain for a long, long time and it'll come down to whether he wants to leave or not as well, but I don't know.

“But I'd be amazed with the decision if he left. Arsenal are building something under Arteta and I'd be surprised if they let one of the best players go. They've done that so many times in the past and I think it's time for Arsenal to stop that trend if they want to build for the future.”

Dickov, who won 10 caps for Scotland, was unable to help the national team reach either the World Cup finals in 2002 or 2006 of the European Championship finals in 2004 during his own international career.

But he reckons that Steve Clarke has the two best left backs in the Premier League in his squad at the moment in Andy Robertson of Liverpool and Tierney of Arsenal and is optimistic about his country’s prospects ahead of the Qatar 2022 play-offs in June.

“It's typical Scotland,” he said. “We've waited years and years for some great players in there and all of a sudden, we get two in the same position and these two are both top players. Andy and Kieran are the two top left backs in the Premier League.

“As much as Kieran plays as a left sided centre-back and Andy as a left-wing back, they're both so clever in the way they work that it can change in a game at any point. If Kieran wants to go forward like he can do, then Andy will just slot back in there. It's a good mix Scotland have on that side.

“To have both of them fitting in the same system where it takes nothing away from either one of their games, then I think that's a credit to Steve Clarke.”

Dickov continued: “I'm excited about Scotland at the minute, I don't want to get too excited, but I know Steve Clarke well and he's a fantastic guy and a great manager. He's brought a great atmosphere into this squad that's been missing for a long time in the Scotland team.

I think it's important they build momentum in the friendlies they have this month (Scotland play Poland at Hampden tomorrow night and then either Austria or Wales away), but I wouldn't be worried from anything that happens in friendlies.

“I know the atmosphere in that squad is so good at the minute, the players have bought into the squad ethic. Sometimes at international level, the players who aren't playing can have a negative impact, but this Scotland team is different.

“There's a unity within the squad and this is what good teams are built on, they're so determined because they know they have a great chance to do it. It's going to be tough, but I genuinely think with the players they currently have in the squad that they could have a great chance at making it to the World Cup.”