Please note: this is a discussion post, containing a short intro in which I aim to give a bit of background info on the topic, in order to stimulate a wide-ranging debate.
The left back/ wing back situation has not been a settled one ever since the departure of Gael Clichy. Some might argue that the Frenchman was actually never at the required level for Arsenal, but I reckon this would be a bit harsh. He was never anywhere near as good as Cashley Cole, but he did more than ok in most of the seasons for Arsenal.
Not many of us were really sad to see him go, though, and if Gibbs had stayed fit for a (number of) sustained period(s), we would probably have been fine in the LB area since Clichy left. But he didn’t, and Arsene opted for additional cover with the last minute buy of Andre Santos from Fenerbahce.
Santos was full of confidence when going forward, and my favourite Santos moment was his cool and professional away-goal against the Chavs the season before last. However, defensively he showed some weaknesses in terms of positioning, fitness levels/speed, one-on-one defending and disciplined, defensive team play. He had a number of dodgy performances this season and it became clear the Brazilian had lost a lot of his confidence. Arsene acted decisively by buying Nacho Monreal last January, and sending Santos out on loan simultaneously.
If Kieran Gibbs could stay fit for most of the coming season, Arsene will be faced with a very-nice-to-have-dilemma: who should he play at LB: Nacho or Kieran.
For me, this is a hard decision to make. The Spaniard is more level headed and appears to be built stronger, but he struggled at times with getting used to the tempo and ferocity of the PL. It is fair to say that Nacho will have to improve further to make a real claim for the LB position.
Once Kieran gets into the groove, he can be fantastic, both defensively and going forward. He quickly developed a good understanding and cooperation with Podolski, and for a while we were most dangerous on the left wing of the team. However, as he gets injured regularly, he often struggles to play at the required level straightaway, and his positioning and concentration levels are often under par during these periods.
If both players are fully fit, it seems to be a shame to place one on the bench, and this raises the question whether we could play them both on the left of the team, say in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 formation. Nacho could be our LB and Gibbs or LW. This could only work though in a four-in-midfield formation, and our still young Englishman would have to improve his crossing in the box significantly. Or perhaps, it should be Gibbs at LB and Nacho as our LW…. Let us know your views on his.
And finally, what to do with Santos: is there still a space in the squad for him, or should he be loaned out for the season again?
Written by: TotalArsenal.