In recent times, Arsenal have been fairly strong in the left-back position. Ashley Cole was arguably the best English left-back of this generation and remains one of the best in the Premier League. Then there was Gael Clichy, now a Manchester City player, whose pace was a real asset for Arsenal over the years. Clichy wasn’t without his flaws, for instance his tendency to tune out and give opponents clear-cut opportunities was something that had caused fans to lose a good deal of patience with the Frenchman. The fact remains, however, that he was a good left-back and will take some replacing at the Emirates.
Rather than looking elsewhere for a new left-back, Arsene Wenger has placed his faith in Kieran Gibbs, the Gunner’s relatively inexperienced fill-in fullback. My feeling is that this faith has been seriously misplaced and that to start next season without an external solution to Arsenal’s left-back problem would be seriously misguided and could have disastrous consequences.
When asked about why he let Gael Clichy go, Arsene Wenger replied: “The reasoning is that Kieran Gibbs at some stage has to get a chance to play. And Gael had only one year to go. I rate Gael very highly but I rate highly as well Kieran Gibbs, and he is now at an age where he has to play. And that’s the main reason behind that, to give Gibbs a chance”.
I agree with everything that has been said here. Gael Clichy had one year left on his contract and Arsene was right to send him on. What’s more, Kieran Gibbs is at a stage in his development where he ought to be playing more games. But does this need for game time really mean that Wenger shouldn’t bring in a new left-back?
I genuinely hope that Arsenal have a player on their hands that will come to make the left-back position his own, but I question whether he’s ready to make the break-through into the first team at this stage in his career. My main concern is that he’s remarkably injury-prone for his age. In the 2009-10 season he broke his metatarsal in a game against Standard Liege, which saw him sidelined for the majority of the season. The most recent season wasn’t much of an improvement either as he spent the majority of the season convalescing from one injury or another.
He’s also demonstrated a certain degree of inexperience over the years. I’m thinking in particular of Gibb’s costly slip-up against Manchester United in the Champions League back in 2009. Mistakes happen and even seasoned pros make an error from time to time, but the slip-up clearly affected Gibbs’ mindset and he was substituted at half-time. Given that he’s played only sporadically since, are we sure he has got the right mentality to be Arsenal’s first choice left-back?
Even if he proves to be a great fit, what happens if he picks up another injury? Armand Traore simply isn’t good enough and I don’t really want to see Thomas Vermaelen move out of his favoured centre-back position.
Now isn’t the time to take a gamble. Arsene Wenger must make sure that his side are adequately prepared for next season and that they have a squad capable of winning trophies. For me this requires signing a new, top quality left-back. Who Arsene Wenger should bring in is an entirely different question.
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