Monreal or Gibbs - Who's cover for who at Arsenal?

Kieran Gibbs

Arsenal’s only January signing left-back Nacho Monreal opened his account for the Gunners last weekend, scoring the opener in their 2-0 victory over Swansea.

The Spaniard transferred from Malaga on deadline day for a fee reportedly of £8.3 million, which, for a 27-year-old wing-back on the periphery of the Spain national team sounds about right.

He has made just 10 appearances for his country but then again the abundance of world-class talent they have within in their team at senior level would make even Jose Mourinho blush - Santi Cazorla rarely makes it in to the first-team.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger drafted in the left-back to cover for the perpetually-injured Kieran Gibbs and, subsequently, upon Monreal’s arrival in North London, sent Andre Santos packing.

There were those who deemed the transfer ‘reactionary’ or something of a panic buy and, conversely, there were those who bemoaned Wenger’s lack of other signings in the window.

However, that aside, Monreal has made very good start to his Premier League career, albeit quiet and modest. I was in attendance at the Emirates on his debut against Stoke City, a game that must have been something of a culture shock – ‘welcome to England’…thud.

He had a moderate game, worked hard and kept afloat which, having just arrived was as much as anyone would have asked from him.

However, I have a feeling as time goes on he will prove to be a very good signing – something, on the one hand, Wenger has earned his reputation on bringing to Arsenal and yet its something, on the other, he takes criticism for more often than not these days.

Monreal is not the superstar striker the fans wanted in January but he is every bit as important to Arsenal’s season. His goal against Swansea was a left-back’s goal – he scuffed it, it deflected and bobbled in but, take nothing away from him, he is very well suited to Arsenal and he will prove himself, in my estimation, worthy of his place in the team over Gibbs, eventually.

The main issue with Gibbs is injuries – that has been true for several years now – and, whilst it’s a shame for the 23-year-old, his development has been impeded by his long and frequent spells on the sidelines.

When he was still in his late-teens he was intended to replace Ashley Cole – for Arsenal and England – but as the seasons go buy and he fails to fully convince for his club that he can match potential with both fitness and form, that looks increasingly unlikely.

Gibbs undoubtedly has talent – whether or not he has the capacity to fill the boots of Cole remains to be seen, however.

His tackle in the closing minutes of Arsenal’s 3-2 win over West Brom on the final day of the season last year was every bit as crucial to Arsenal’s subsequent qualification for this season’s Champions League instead of Tottenham as all 30 goals scored by Robin van Persie were.

Gibbs’ exceptionally well-timed tackled in the penalty area ensured Arsenal won the game – had he have mistimed that tackle of not made it at all, Arsenal would very likely have been playing in the Europa League this season.

Gibbs has the ability but until he can maintain his fitness for a substantial period of any season, he cannot hope to build form and prove himself. He retuned to Wenger’s line-up against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and performed exceptionally well, as did his team. But, he may, as time goes on, find that he ends up being the cover for the man brought in to cover him.

Still, it could be worse - anyone missing Andre Santos?

image: © Ronnie Macdonal

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