Arsenal could have been forgiven for not wanting the 2012/13 season to end, finishing as they did with a storming unbeaten run that propelled them into the Champions League places.
Kieran Gibbs might share that sentiment more than most – the left back had, by his own admission, his best season in the Arsenal first team yet, and it wasn’t as if he had things all his own way.
A mid-season injury, and the subsequent arrival of impressive Spaniard Nacho Monreal, threatened to cast a shadow over a highly impressive few months’ work – but he bounced back in fine fashion to end the campaign as he began it, among the Gunners’ most impressive and highly valued performers.
“I’ve had my most productive season, so I have to be happy,” he told the Official Arsenal Magazine. “I have played quite a few games, which was due to good fitness, and have contributed to the team.
"I feel that, when I have played, I have made an impact. It’s my best season so far, so I am delighted on a personal level. It’s a stepping stone for me, and now I just need to build and stay fit. I am sure I can do more for the team.”
Kieran made 34 appearances during the season, 29 of them starts – comfortably the best figures of his career. He explains that this has fostered a genuine feeling of integration and belonging, taking the strength of his belief in Arsenal and his team-mates to a new level.
I’ve had my most productive season, so I have to be happyKieran Gibbs
“I think that, having been so involved this season, this is the strongest I have felt about a team I have played in,” he admits.
“I believe strongly in this team now. You have seen the quality throughout the season. We haven’t shown it consistently enough, either in the cups or the Premier League but you have seen many glimpses of what the team is capable of.
“We have played against the best and we have performed. Next season we have to focus on every detail and on being professional in every single way, so that we give ourselves the best chance of producing something. We are desperate to get a trophy under our belts.”
Fourth place in the Premier League had begun to look a remote prospect for Arsenal a few months ago as the Gunners seemed set to count the cost of an inconsistent first half of the campaign.
There were sure signs, though, that a remodelled team – with new boys such as Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and player of the year Santi Cazorla very much to the fore – had found its legs as the season approached its business end, and Kieran stresses that the whole team was subjected to an acclimatisation process before it really got going.
“We were a new-look side for the season, with new signings that had to come in and step up,” he explains.
“It is never easy to come straight into the Premier League and perform as some of our players have. In the end, there was a combination of realising what we wanted from the season and of the players getting to know each other more. As time went on, we started to gel as a team.
"That was important and it puts us in good stead for next term. The dramatic finale to the season has made us even stronger, and we will be going into the new one head on.”
It is never easy to come straight into the Premier League and perform as some of our players haveKieran Gibbs
Kieran would have liked to be producing on another front this summer. It was something of a surprise that he did not make the cut for Roy Hodgson’s England squad that faced the Republic of Ireland and Brazil in June – and perhaps they could have benefitted from his services during the two draws.
It is surely only a matter of time before the 23 year-old adds to the two caps he has to his name thus far, with the World Cup doubtless an irresistible target – but his reaction to a calmer summer is simply to intensify his preparations for a 2013/14 campaign that he is clearly impatient to commence.
“I was hopeful of getting in the England squad but I wasn’t called up,” he says. “I will just relax in the next few weeks and make sure I prepare myself physically for next season, ensuring that I go into it with a clear head. I am really looking forward to it and hopefully we can all make it a special one.”
If the development of Kieran’s game continues in the same vein as during 2012/13, the chances of that happening will be all the greater.Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source