The presence of fellow summer signing Andre Wisdom has restricted Cristian Gamboa’s Premier League minutes at West Bromwich Albion so far this season, but the Costa Rican right-back showed on the weekend that manager Alan Irvine will have a selection dilemma going forward.
With the Liverpool loanee unable to feature against his parent club, Gamboa was given his first top-flight start for the trip to Anfield and proceeded to put in an assured performance in a spirited 2-1 defeat, earning the praise of his boss in the process.
‘It was a really good debut,’ Irvine was quoted in the Express and Star. ‘Cristian has been waiting for his chance and he showed the energy and the enthusiasm that we saw from him in the World Cup.
‘He was a player I was really keen for us to get. We had competition but fortunately he decided this was the best place for him to come.
‘I was hoping he would give me a selection problem and he has done that.
‘It's better to have those kind of problems than the other one which I had prior to the last international break which was “this is your team, now find a way for them to play”.
‘He goes away now with Costa Rica, so we are keeping our fingers crossed about how he comes back.
‘He was one that I was really keen on – I have to be honest, only from watching him in the World Cup.’
Aged 21, the promising Wisdom has done an admirable job since taking over the right-back role at the start of the season, and the stats so far show that he is not too far off to rivaling his more experienced counterpart, who had made three cameo appearances prior to the weekend.
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It's perhaps not surprising that Gamboa has the slight edge over Wisdom going forward, given his renowned attacking flair which was showcased at the World Cup this summer, but the England under-21 international is no slouch himself.
In fact, not only has he proved the more accurate crosser of the ball, but the highly-rated Liverpool product has also been less wasteful in possession, although the defensive statistics are not quite as impressive in comparison as one would have anticipated.
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Having featured at centre-back coming up through the Anfield ranks, Wisdom should impress in this area, but it's instead Gamboa who comes out on top across most departments, albeit from a smaller sample size which could regress to the mean in time.
Whatever the case, there is a clear argument to make that the Costa Rican should be handed a spot in the starting lineup once he returns after the international break, despite the loanee having done little to warrant a demotion after contributing to consecutive clean sheets in his last two starts.
It will be hard decision for Irvine but Gamboa is the quicker, more glamorous alternative, who presents a good fit with West Brom's current narrow midfield and, for the moment, looks to be just as solid in defence, despite what appearances might suggest.