Writing clever intros for these is hard, particularly since as I write this I just got back from the dentist and am only barely starting my day. So here's our reviews of Kieran Gibbs!
I like Kieran Gibbs. When we initially sold Gael Clichy I wasn't worried at all - we had Gibbs! Well, we had him some of the time. His first-team career has been marred by injury, and that happened again this year to an extent. He missed some time in winter, and since Andre Santos is completely unreliable at this point, that led to Nacho Monreal's purchase. In a way that was maybe a blessing in disguise for the team and for the player.
Monreal's presence brought the best out of Gibbs, I think. Not that he wasn't trying before, but having real competition may have provided extra motivation. More importantly, though, it allowed Arsene Wenger to spell Gibbs occasionally without worrying about having one crazy person or another at left back. This should help his injury situation going forward, because rest is good.
But overall Gibbs did play a lot, which is a credit to improved fitness and consistent quality. Gibbs is and always has been a threat on the left flank offensively, but he's also improving as a defender. We all remember his big block in last year's final game, but Gibbs built on that this year and while he's not The World's Greatest Defender, he worked well in the team. He tracks back after forward runs, he's getting more physical, and his tackling is improving. He's still quite young, and he has room to grow. But this year was a major positive for him.
One of Arsene's famous Young Players With Promise, Kieran Gibbs used to be all upside; lost in all the stupid mockery of Arsene's HOARD ALL THE YOOF policy is the fact that the payoff for stockpiling talented young players is growing a generation of players who sometimes turn out to be really good. Kieran Gibbs is a great example of that, and this year he really took a step forward and made left back his own.
My fear with Gibbs was that he'd turn into another ultra-fragile player who we would never see the best of, but that fear largely vanished this season - he still fought some injury problems, which prompted Wenger to buy Nacho Monreal in January, but with 23 league appearances under his belt I think his most serious injury days are behind him, and I think next year he will beat back the challenge of Nacho, relegate him to bench depth (which is by no means a bad thing), and own left back.
At one point, Kieran Gibbs was in the running for the top three in "Arsenal Player of the Season". While that might indicate how poor the first half of the season went for Arsenal, it also indicates how Gibbs improved greatly when he finally got a long run in the side. Of course, he then got injured, provoking large amounts of fear in the Arsenal fanbase before Nacho Monreal was signed, but Gibbs played 34 games, which is more than he's played before, and looked to be putting his injury problems behind him.
When Gibbs played he showed an affinity like his predecessors at left back to nicking the ball away from wingers and instigating counter attacks. He's a good tackler and his positioning is pretty good, but Gibbs is also good in the final third. He developed as a winger, and still shows those traits, with above-average dribbling skills and good cutbacks and crosses. Furthermore, his volley against Swansea in the FA Cup was a superb technical strike.
Kieran Gibbs, to me, is the type of player that just sort of is there, for me. That's a good thing. He's reliable, if not spectacular, at this point in his career, and he is still growing as a player. His attacking game is good, and his defending has improved to the point where if he is selected, my brain just sort of says "yep; there's Gibbo, we're good". After his slip against United a few years back in the Champions League, I was worried he wasn't going to pan out, but it's all to his credit that he basically just quietly set about fighting through injury and improving as a player.
He's still only 23, so that was to be expected. At this point, I see him only continuing to get better, and while it's nice that he has a solid platoon-mate in Nacho Monreal, I just like having Kieran Gibbs in the team a lot. At this point, not inspiring worry feels like enough sometimes with Arsenal defenders.
Kieran Gibbs made The Leap this past season, showing that not only can he work well between the wide left forward but also not completely suck defensively. Which is good, considering his backup, Nacho Monreal, came into the squad in January known more for his defensive work rate than his offense and can easily supplant Gibbs if he were to ever find himself lacking in that area of his game.
There was a noticeable drop off in both Lukas Podolski's game, as well as whoever Arsene Wenger would play in place of Podolski, when Gibbs was absent due to injury and I don't consider that a coincidence. Kieran Gibbs, a converted winger and midfielder, has the ability to transform our attack from the far width of the pitch and threaten the opposing back line with perfectly-weighted passes and crosses thanks to efficient link-up play with the left forward. This was a consistent part of his game this past season, and one that should only improve with time on the pitch. Let's hope this nasty little injury habit of his disappears quickly, however.