Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs is in contention to be named in Roy Hodgson’s squad tomorrow for the upcoming European Championship qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia.
The 25-year-old has only made three international appearances so far, and has not played for his country since England’s 1-0 defeat to Germany last November, where he came on as a substitute.
Arsene Wenger believes that Gibbs not only has the ability to establish himself as a first choice left-back for England, but he is as good as Ashley Cole, arguably the best left-back England have had in the last decade.
“I think he will be in after the way he performed against Tottenham,” Wenger said as quoted by The Times.
“Now he realises he can trust his body, and trust his talent. Against Tottenham he took the game by the scruff of the neck for a long period in the second half. That’s what you want to see from him because all the talent is there. With Ashley around for a long time there was no discussion, but now it’s a bit more open.
“He can be as good as Ashley, and he’s good example to follow because Ashley was top. You see stories about Ashley Cole, but on the day of a game he was always there.”
Leighton Baines is currently the first choice left-back for England, but the Everton defender performed below par during the World Cup in Brazil. Luke Shaw is a promising youngster but has hardly played for Manchester United this season.
Gibbs’s recent form and experience gives him the edge and is likely to be selected ahead of Shaw and Rose by Roy Hodgson tomorrow.
The comparison with Cole is interesting here. Cole was a brilliant player going forward, and his final delivery (either in the form of crosses or side pass after cutting inside) was outstanding. But at the same time, Cole was defensively vulnerable in his early years and his positional sense was a huge concern.
Gibbs on the other hand is a strong defender with an impeccable positional awareness. He may not be as adventurous as Cole or Baines, and probably needs to improve on his delivery in the final third, but he is an assured passer (87% passing accuracy) and is an excellent reader of the game. He just needs to get rid of his bad habit of picking up frequent injuries which could impede him from becoming a top defender in future.