So far this season, Aaron Ramsey has been grabbing all the headlines, and rightfully so. But one player that has been going under the radar is another from our British contingent; Kieran Gibbs.
The thing I like most about Kieran Gibbs is that he’s consistent. He’s not the type of player who puts in a MOTM performance one weekend and has an absolute shocker the next. In my books, he’s officially replaced Sagna as Mr. Consistent.
It’s strange, because at the end of each game we see people praising Rambo, Jack, etc. on twitter and it’s come to a point where we all are like “Yet another good game for Gibbo,” because that’s what is expected of him every single time he steps onto the pitch. That’s how far he’s come.
Reflecting on this year alone, there’s been maybe one or two games where he’s deserved less than an 8 out of 10. Yes, his positioning might have been better at times, but he’s grown by leaps and bounds in that sense and hasn’t been directly at fault for any of goals in ages.
Remember how we had to put up with Clichy so, so many times? Decent defender, yes, but very uncertain. Personally, I would never be confident defensively with him on the pitch, especially while we were leading games. He would have a brain fart for a few seconds, but that would be enough for us to concede.
Clichy was the reason for us not being able to hold lines for many seasons, in my belief. We have always used the old fashioned defending technique where one fullback sits when the other bombs forward, and Clichy was the one forward most of the time, but when he wasn’t, he used to sit far too deep and play strikers onside. David Villa, Darren Bent and many others have capitalised on this in the past.
On the other hand, Kieran’s positional awareness, coupled with Bould’s hard work and drills on the training pitch have been one of the reasons we have been watertight at the back off-late.
I think Arsene saw that Gibbo had it in him to go on to be a top defender and this convinced him to let Clichy go.
One of the main factors for Gibbs’ rise is undoubtedly his fitness and lack of injuries (knocked on wood while writing this). He has been plagued with injuries over the years, from a broken metatarsal to pulled hamstrings which sidelined him for a lot longer than expected.
But, you can see that he’s worked hard in the gym to bulk up a fair bit and also put it behind him in his mind. Psychologically, it can make a huge difference because players who are hesitant of getting injured again, do not get stuck into challenges. Gibbs is not a player to shy away from a nice crunching tackle though, and that shows his maturity.
Gibbs’ aerial ability and reading of the game is something that is massively underrated, according to me. He judges the flight of the ball very well and as he’s a good height for a fullback, he’s not often beaten in the air when challenging for diagonal balls. You also very rarely see him putting in an untimed challenge in.
Offensively, the England international has improved heaps. I’ve noticed that his crossing still isn’t the best, but he’s never hesitant to get up the pitch when given the time and space. He also enjoys these little cut backs when he’s in the opponents’ box which totally put off his opposite number. This would not only help us win penalties, but also, if he can work on his right foot, I think we could see a lot more goals from him when he does do those cut backs.
But, to me, the thing I like most about Gibbo is how vocal he is. You wouldn’t normally expect it from him, but he’s a very animated character on the pitch, always having something to say. Those sorts of players add a lot of character to team. I specifically remember him having a go at Giroud last season at Anfield when he was in on goal and wasn’t passed to.
Some argue that this would cause a rift, but I disagree. Being able to voice your opinion id the most important thing. I recall Sol Campbell pointing out that the Invincibles side was such a successful one as a unit because they were all very honest with each other. They would often sit down after training sessions and games, without the supervision of Wenger, and would point out where others went wrong.
I see this sort of level-headedness in Kieran and hope he continues to be a leader on the pitch, even if he doesn’t have the armband on. Hope you enjoy this gif of him telling the midfield to “f**king get up the pitch” during our visit to the Sukru Saracoglu as much as I do;
The speedy left-back, has to keep Spain’s second choice, Nacho Monreal, out of the XI, who is a very good defender by all means, and I’m sure this competition will bring the best out of both of them, but right now, Gibbo alongside Rambo deserve to be the first players on the team sheet.
Neutral fans will only remember Gibbs as the player to give away that goal to United all those years ago in the Champions League semi-final, but it’s moments like those that give you the determination and drive to give it your all when coming off the bench to slam in a tackle that would assure a top four finish for your football club.
-By Pranoy Thipaiah. Follow him on Twitter: @P38L0
Photo by Ronnie Macdonald