Over the past 10 months or so, Nacho Monreal has established himself as Arsenal’s first choice left-back.
Beforehand he was often a reserve for Kieran Gibbs, but an incredibly solid run in the team has seen Monreal consistently starting. Gibbs is yet to play a Premier League game this season but has started in the Champions League and in Wednesday night’s League Cup defeat of Tottenham Hotspur as Arsène Wenger looks to use his squad.
The 2-1 win in Wednesday’s north London derby would’ve meant a lot to Gibbs, who grew up a Gooner, and the manager has backed him to challenge Monreal for a regular place in the team.
“For me Kieran is a great player with a fantastic potential and he was in front of Nacho for long periods, but now is a bit behind in the pecking order,” Wenger said before the match at White Hart Lane.
“He can make that up again because he has a huge amount of talent. He can get in front of him again. This is one of the opportunities that he has to show that.”
Gibbs played well in the victory, though probably not well enough to displace Monreal on that one showing. The Spaniard is approaching his 30th birthday though, and Gibbs will have more opportunities to fight for the place as the season goes on.
Ultimately, Wenger will choose who plays which games as both get their fair share of minutes and Arsenal benefit from having two suitable players for the position.
The manager added, “I have a decision to make with who I pick and who I don’t pick. On the other hand, if I go into a season with only one left back everybody will say that it’s not responsible. To be in a big club today you have to cope with that.
“If you think that the club plays 60 games, everybody gets their fair share of games. The most important [thing] is that they are at the level and there’s a fair competition. I try to be fair.
“At the end of the day I can only play one, but the most important thing is that they are both at the level to play for Arsenal. Both are huge players and that is what we want.”
There should be no ill-feelings between the two defenders. Monreal has earned the shirt and it’s now down to Gibbs to try and earn it back.
The healthy competition should be a great thing for the Gunners.