‘The reasoning is that Kieran Gibbs at some stage has to get a chance to play. And Gael had only one year go to. He is now at an age where he has to play. And that’s the main reason behind that, to give Gibbs a chance.’
Now I know some of you are concerned that Arsene Wenger is as usual doing it on the cheap and promoting Gibbs, instead of buying an experienced replacement. This is a valid argument, along with the concerns that young Kieran is too injury-prone. However, there is no doubt that Gibbs has huge talent, having already been selected in several England squads and made his full debut against Hungary as a second half substitute.
Firstly, can we dismiss the claim that he is too young and inexperienced to make the Arsenal left-back berth his own? Ashley Cole was only 20 when he dislodged fans favourite Sylvinho in 2001, and the recently departed Gael Clichy was an ‘Invincible’ with 12 appearances in 2003/4 at just 18 years of age, who became a regular at 21. So let’s just agree that if you’re good enough you are old enough.
Many of the observers on the blogs seem to be medical experts and have decided that Gibbs is a permanent crock. Well I am not a doctor or a physician, but Arsenal’s Tony Colbert is one of the best in the business and he seems to be satisfied with Gibbs’ fitness and strength at present.
Cesc Fabregas has had a number of injuries and setbacks in recent years, as has RVP, but strangely enough; no one is suggesting we offload them. No doubt these were the same observers asking for Gibbs to be given his chance at the start of last season.
In a previous article, I pointed out how crucial full-backs have been in the attacking third in all recent Premier League winning sides, and I feel that with Gibbs having, like Cole before, started his career as a left winger, could provide some much more end product going forward that Clichy has in recent seasons. I am sure we all remember is first run out in an Arsenal shirt at 17 in the Emirates Cup in 2007, when he tormented the Inter Milan right-back with a dazzling display on the wing. I am convinced that his final cross, or cut back when overlapping, will be delivered with a far more telling accuracy than we have recently witnessed.
Having said that, Gibbs must be first and foremost a defender, and does need to improve in some aspects of his positioning and decision making. This year, he will have the benefit of Thomas Vermaelen playing just inside him, constantly coaching and talking to him and that will be invaluable. If we do strengthen the centre of the defence, with I hope Gary Cahill, this will also help Kieran, and give him time in a stronger back four to develop the defensive attributes of his game. Let’s not forget that Ashley Cole had similar failings when he came into the side, and despite our feelings about him now, he is widely recognized as one of, if not the best left-back in the world.
I would also like to recognize his mental strength, which is in itself is a sign of his maturity. Not only has he had to come back from two serious injuries, but he also had to bounce back from the disappointment of missing a World Cup, as he would certainly have got ahead of Warnock. In addition, he has shown huge character on the pitch in his performances after his slip against Manchester United at the Emirates, which allowed Park to effectively end our hopes of progressing into the semi-finals two years ago.
Lastly, I don’t think we can undervalue the fact that since joining from the Wimbledon academy, Gibbs is another young English talent who feels he owes his footballing career to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.
Gibbs, like Wilshere, wants to win and achieve honours in the game. But unlike some now and before him, the youngster wants to do it in the red and white of Arsenal.
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