Kieran Gibbs - Arsenal's excellent yet underrated star left-back

Kieran Gibbs

Kieran Gibbs has been excellent this season for Arsenal, but it could be the invisible man playing in the position for all the credit he is getting. It's about time the plaudits came his way.

While the nation debates who is England's best left-back, Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines, one 23-year-old who will hoping he can break their current duopoly is Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs.

Rarely has a young English player so consistently good suffered from a lack of hype, but it is a lack of recognition at all which may seem to irk Arsenal fans.

Way back in 2009, Gibbs had the honour of starting a Champions League semi-final, against Manchester United. It didn't go well, he made an costly slip which let in Park Ji-Sung for an early away goal, giving the visitors a 2-0 aggregate lead. It was at least misfortunate rather than bad play.

The following season he suffered that footballer's curse, a broken metatarsal. It restricted him to just three league appearances, and it was a lost season in his progression. In 2010/11 he also suffered with injury, playing just seven league games.

At the beginning of last season the arrival of Andre Santos made him a marked man, many saw the signing as Wenger getting frustrated with his injury problems. Gael Clichy had been sold, and the spot was up for grabs, but Gibbs had another battle.

Both he and Santos suffered injuries, and last January Arsenal really struggled without the pair of them. Ignasi Miquel was tried there, but it didn't work out, and when Gibbs recovered from his lay-off earlier, it gave the Gunners a huge lift.

He hasn't looked back. Santos has been unable to oust him from the side, and it says everything about Gibbs' stunning form that the Brazilian is being linked with a move back to Fenerbahce.

Arsenal's defence as a whole has been the subject of much praise this season, with new number two taking much of the credit. Out of the whole back four, Gibbs has received the least praise; even when he provided two assists in the 6-1 thrashing of Southampton, it was pushed aside for there were 'more exciting' things to talk about that day.

Carl Jenkinson has hogged the headlines for his emergence, but Gibbs' consistent and productive performances on the left have been equally worth shouting about.

The good news is that Roy Hodgson has seen his performances and called him up for England's two matches against San Marino and Poland, but even this has flown largely under the radar, with the furore over Cole's tweets and Ryan Shawcross' first cap.

Inevitably, a minor injury caused him to pull out of the squad, and Arsenal will be dearly hoping it is not of a serious nature. For even just staying fit this season for Gibbs has been something to shout about, his excellent form the icing on the cake.

There has always been a suspicion that could he stay fit, he would really blossom for Arsenal, and right now the club are seeing that. Gooners will cross their fingers it can stay that way, and who knows - He could turn out to be England's future left-back.

image: © Ronnie Macdonal

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