Arsenal sold Kieran Gibbs to West Bromwich Albion this summer. But with the current situation at left-back, should the Gunners have kept him?
Gibbs joined West Brom for £7m just before the August transfer deadline. At the time, it seemed like a good move.
Arsenal had Sead Kolašinac as a new first-choice wing-back, and Nacho Monreal was a more than capable back-up. In fact, considering how well Monreal played the position last season, it seemed like Kolašinac might have a fight on his hands.
A lot’s changed since then. Monreal is now a centre-back, and Wenger says he’s not considering the Spaniard on the left. He argues that the position is too demanding for the 31-year-old physically.
The Gunners have also changed formation. The three-at-the-back system wasn’t working, so they’ve reverted to the 4-2-3-1 of previous years. Wenger doesn’t trust Kolašinac as much in this system, according to Goal, as he prefers the Bosnian’s offensive game.
Wenger confirmed my exclusive on why he prefers Maitland-Niles in a back four over Sead Kolasinac:
“He [Kolasinac] is highly suited for a wing-back role, for a more offensive role. I think he will play again and I gave him a breather as well.”https://t.co/7kgrn71n7Q
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) December 28, 2017
What this means is Ainsley Maitland-Niles, a central midfielder from the Arsenal academy, is now playing left-back. Wenger says he prefers the 20-year-old for his pace and recovery runs.
The England u21 international has actually played the role very well. But there’s no doubt that it isn’t his best position. In 106 appearances before this season, at youth level and on loan, Maitland-Niles played on the left five times.
All five were in midfield, not at the back. So his first ever recorded appearance at left-back was this month, against BATE Borisov.
If Wenger knew he’d play Monreal at centre-back, and had any suspicion that the back-four might return, it’s very strange that he decided to let a natural left-back leave.
Gibbs has years of Premier League experience, and seemed to love the club as much as anyone. I’m happy for Maitland-Niles to get his chance, it just makes the sale a bit questionable.
Hopefully the decision doesn’t come back to haunt the boss when Arsenal travel to West Brom on Sunday.