Can Kieran Gibbs oust Leighton Baines as England's first choice left-back?

Keiran Gibbs Pre FA Cup Press Conference

Kieran Gibbs and Leighton Baines each started one game in the recent England internationals, and they could be set to battle for the starting berth this season.

Ashley Cole had the left-back role nailed down for over a decade and no one ever really came close to replacing him in the side. His instant and surprise omission from the squad for the World Cup led to his retirement and now Leighton Baines has replaced him in the side.

Luke Shaw is seen as the long-term replacement but an indifferent start at Manchester United has given Kieran Gibbs a great chance. Gibbs never managed to quite cement his place in the Arsenal side until last season and at 25 he needs a good run of games so he can start to fulfil his potential.

Gibbs has played the full 90 minutes in each of Arsenal's last five matches and was handed an opportunity by England manager Roy Hodgson in Thursday's match against San Marino. Not exactly the hardest challenge the left-back will face, but an occasion in which he could put forward his case to challenge Leighton Baines.

Baines has proved at Everton that whilst being a good defender, he can also be a threat going forward, and he has particular expertise with set-pieces. If it wasn't for Gibbs' injuries over the years he may well have already established himself as England's top left-back but they have hindered him whilst Baines has become one of Everton's most consistent performers.

Luke Shaw is very far from the finished article so it should be a fierce battle between Baines and Gibbs for the next few years. Modern day full-back are almost expected to venture over the halfway line more often than not, and overlap with the wingers. Whilst Baines is the more attacking of the two, Gibbs is the more natural athlete and his pace allows him to quickly turn defence into attack and vice-versa.

Right now it looks as though Hodgson will put his faith in Baines, but any shaky performances or a drop in form and there should be no qualms about replacing him with Gibbs. There is great competition in that area and we look secure for the foreseeable future. 

With regards to the right-back position however, that is rather uncertain. Calum Chambers failed to shine in the qualifiers and with Glen Johnson seemingly on his way out of international football, it is up in the air who might take over that mantle. John Stones, Kyle Walker, Nathaniel Clyne, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are possibilities but there isn't an outstanding candidate. 

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