A good start to the season for Arsenal, the attempted banishing of demons in a number of areas, and the further development of another potentially fantastic attacking full-back.
Kieran Gibbs really caught the eye in a preseason friendly against Inter Milan at the Emirates Stadium back in 2007. A central midfielder who had been drafted in to take up the role of left-back and offer Gael Clichy some level of competition. Like other notable appearances of Arsenal youngsters in the Emirates Cup, Gibbs gave a wonderful and mature performance on the day. An early touch to settle the nerves, as they say, and the shackles were off, as Gibbs continued to bomb forward down the left flank and display a very good technical level.
Injuries have hampered what could have been a couple of good seasons already under his belt. The crisis of last summer forced the manager into the purchase of Andre Santos, but Gibbs has continued to look the more suitable to the defensive side of the game. His £30million pound tackle last season against West Brom was a moment of quality, but certainly accentuated due to the importance of that final fixture of the league season.
This season is looking to be another great step forward for the youngster. The introduction of Steve Bould to the coaching staff is looking to have a great affect on Gibbs’ game, as he looks comfortable in the defensive aspect of the game but also threatening and assured of his ability when on the attack. He played a role in two of Arsenal’s goals against Southampton at the Emirates, and Andre Santos has barely had a look in to start on the left side of defence.
Lets also not overlook the contribution of Lukas Podolski on the left flank ahead of Gibbs. For a few seasons, Gibbs has continued to be left all at sea by a lazy and seemingly uncommitted Andrey Arshavin. Opposition attackers would double up on Arsenal’s flanks, exposing a young footballer who is still learning much of his trade. Gibbs is making positive steps forward in his career, but how much of his good work is down to Podolski? A hardworking, no nonsense international footballer who understands the need to come into a game and do a job at both ends of the pitch. There’s no ego about Podolski’s game, but his unselfishness is playing a big role in giving Gibbs plenty of comfort and confidence to play the game to the best of his abilities.
Gibbs may not be strongest of defenders, and he certainly favours the attacking game, as most of Arsene Wenger’s full-backs are taught to do. But he appears to have grasped the importance of a well-timed challenge, the understanding of when it’s safe to go on the attack and leave his defensive post, and his attacking game is really playing an important part in Arsenal’s success in the final third.
So much has been said of Barcelona’s attacking play and the players they have in forward positions, but so much credit goes to players like Dani Alves, Adriano and now Jordi Alba. They help to create space for the forwards in the team, they confuse opposition defenders as to where they need to be, and they are capable of contributing on the score sheet as well. Wenger has long advocated that style of play, and it shows in his personnel choices for many positions in his team.
It’s always likely that Gibbs may once again be troubled by a lengthy injury layoff. Even more so, his youth certainly warrants a mistake or two. He’s far from the finished article, but his game will be given more than enough time and attention to grow through regular game time and the education on offer at Arsenal. For now, it looks a safe bet to say that Arsenal are doing well in the left-back spot, replacing the departed Gael Clichy internally with a player who is committed to the club and showing excellent progress as an attacking full-back, both for club and country.