With Nacho Monreal failing to replicate his form from last season, it’s time to start wondering whether Kieran Gibbs is ready to take over.
The 27-year-old limped off in the 71st minute against West Brom on Boxing Day having put in a brilliant performance during his rare start. It was only his fifth Premier League appearance this term and, in the first half especially, he gave it everything.
Speaking after the match, Arsene Wenger confirmed that he’d received a kick to the knee and that he didn’t know how serious it was.
Before this, the boss had spoken to the club magazine about how he saw potential for Gibbs, who was previously a midfielder, to play as a full-back.
“When he arrived at the club he was a teenager and he was a winger or a midfielder and I saw that potential didn’t really come out in that position so we always try to show him confidence. I saw he was intelligent and maybe I could transform him into a defender – it was a bit similar to Ashley Cole. I let Gael Clichy go because Gibbs was a young, English left-back. That’s the main reason I let Clichy go. I wanted to give Gibbs a chance.”
Former Gunner, Liam Brady, also sang Gibbs’ praises.
“I can still remember when Kieran joined from the club,” Brady recalled.
“He came from Wimbledon, who had a few problems at the time. They had moved to Milton Keynes and a lot of the parents didn’t want them to travel that far.
“It was our coach, Steve Leonard, who recommended we have a look at Kieran, along with another player, James Dunne, who is at Cambridge United now.
“I can remember when Kieran was on trial – he did very, very well when he came on. I liked him because he had a very composed posture and he just looked after the ball very well and was calm on the ball. I still think he demonstrates that now. He has a lovely left foot but he was a midfield player then and I saw him as a midfield player too, either wide on the left or one in the middle.
“He played a lot of his youth football there and then went on loan to Norwich and played in midfield. Arsenal saw him differently when he came back and he had got physically stronger, which he needed to do.
“Arsene thought he could play left-back and what a good decision it turned out to be! Like many forward players, he has developed into a great left-back. Ashley Cole did the same – he was a forward when he joined us. I think Sammy Nelson in my playing days was a left winger when he came to us but ended up at left-back.
“It’s a real pleasure to see the player Kieran has matured into – he’s made well over 200 first team appearances now and I’ve been really impressed with his consistency over the years.”
Monreal is now 30 years old, three years older than Gibbs, with three years left on his existing Arsenal contract to Gibbs’ two. Could it be time to finally begin pushing the Englishman to take over? I think so. And I do believe this could be what Wenger’s currently doing.
Hopefully, the kick to his knee isn’t too serious.