By Yogi's Warrior

It could be a novel from Dickens or one of the other literary giants from the past, The Tale Of Two Young Men. Either that or a sub-standard ITV 70s action series, Gibbs and Walcott.

Like Dempsey and Makepeace without the gal. Or the hard-drinking partner. A squeaky voice erupts, “We’re Theo and Kieran, and we haven’t had our breakfast“, or judging by Walcott’s recent interview, “We’re Theo and Kieran, and we haven’t had our trophies“…

Kieran Gibbs' season has been similar to those previously, a promising start, a bit wayward and then injured. The signing of Monreal was deemed to offer more competition to the youngster; that presumes his wretched misfortune with injuries permits him more than a fleeting glance at a season.

Gibbs has long been held as a future England left back, the eventual successor to Ashley Cole when he retires. Arsène agrees, rating him as one of best in the country, in the top three. Which must make Monreal second best behind the Chelsea defender.

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This article first appeared on A Cultured Left Foot in April 2013

It is nothing detrimental for the younger of two Arsenal left backs. He is just 23 and has made barely a century of first-team appearances for the Club. When you consider it is only the past two seasons that he could consider that the route to the first team was relatively clear, he has not done badly. Certainly he is much improved and the damage which might have been wrought by a poor second-leg performance against United in the Champions League semi-final never manifested, giving testament to his strength of character.

He has improved a lot, has put his personality into the games, which was sometimes a bit of a problem for him. He has authority, he is decisive going forward, and in games where we were struggling a bit like Swansea in the cup he turned up and was the one who brought the pressure on the opponent.

Gibbs is a good long-term bet for club and country. If he can shake off the injuries, the potential is there

Even at Munich when he had been out for six weeks he came straight back in and had a very decent game. For me he has moved into the top three left backs in the country.
Where Gibbs will be scrutinised is the consistency of his performances. Monreal has been exactly that but has given the air of defensive calmness which had been previously missing. Gibbs is a good long-term bet for club and country. If he can shake off the injuries, the potential is there. Perhaps as Arsène believes, the competition for places will do him good.

The pair are throwbacks to their predecessors in many respects. Gibbs echoes Clichy and Cole, having the former’s attacking instinct coupled with the latter’s recovering ability. He reminds me more of the latter with this season’s form, more defensively aware than Clichy with better distribution in the opposition's half.

Nacho Monreal
Nacho Monreal

Meanwhile, Monreal is more McNab or Winterburn. Defensively solid, perhaps more astute in attack than that duo. If you could merge both of the current left backs, you would come somewhere close to Kenny Sansom, still the best modern day left back that Arsenal have had.

Monreal was the right man at the right time, helping to bring about some stability to a defence that was reeling on the ropes, undone by individual mistakes that affected the collective confidence. Gibbs is the future but what of the now? It is an interesting dilemma for the manager, selecting who is the first choice left-back.

Monreal was the right man at the right time, helping to bring about some stability to a defence that was reeling on the ropes, undone by individual mistakes that affected the collective confidence

Monreal has been the model of consistency since arriving and has done little wrong, certainly nothing to warrant being dropped. I would personally continue with him when he returns to fitness, irrespective of Gibbs form. That is harsh on the younger of the pair but that is the reality.

The competition will do no harm; it will ensure consistency or displacement. Motivation enough for anyone, surely?

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8 Apr 2013