Arsenal: The Left Back Engima: What does the road ahead hold?

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13: Sead Kolasinac of Arsenal looks on during the match between Sydney FC and Arsenal FC at ANZ Stadium on July 13, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13: Sead Kolasinac of Arsenal looks on during the match between Sydney FC and Arsenal FC at ANZ Stadium on July 13, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) /

With the addition of Sead Kolasinac, arguably the best left back in the Bundesliga last season, the question remains as to what that may mean for the future of both Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs.

It was the 2011-12 season and a young Kieran Gibbs had just established his place in the Arsenal starting line-up as the main left-back. The youngster, who had played second fiddle to Gael Clichy for nearly four odd years since his debut, had finally broken free.

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However, like the smorgasbord of delayed and postponed talent that came before and after him, injuries, consistency and Andre Santos being sold all lead to Nacho Monreal being brought in as to compete with Gibbs for the coveted left-back spot.

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It took the Spaniard time to adjust to the physicality and pace of the English game, and in the meantime, Gibbs continued to be Arsene Wenger’s first choice. But that slowly changed and Monreal stepped up to become the first name on the teamsheet. However, while the Spaniard certainly made a big difference to the team, the fact still remained that Nacho was not getting any younger and like all ageing footballers, his speed, athleticism, and stamina were all slowly deserting him.

When things took a drastic turn as Arsenal slipped away from their preferred fourth place last season, Arsene Wenger was forced to make some drastic changes. The Frenchman switched from his preferred formation to a three-man defense, taking notes from Antonio Conte’s success with Juventus, Chelsea and even the Italian national team. This allowed Monreal to switch from a marauding left-back to a comparatively less demanding role as a left central defender, alongside Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel, which made a world of difference to the Spanish international.

This season could mark a change for the left backs as Wenger has somehow managed to capture Sead Kolasinac. The former Schalke defender was a part of the Bundesliga team of the year last season and also happens to be a younger and better version of both the Arsenal left-backs. The Bosnian is a definite physical upgrade on Monreal, with former Schalke manager Jens Keller saying: “Sead is a tree. He gets hit on the head, but just shakes it off and continues to play superbly.”

His defensive abilities are top notch, to say the least, with the Bosnian averaging 2.8 tackles and 3.2 interceptions a game according to Whoscored, outdoing both Gibbs and Monreal. This simply means that the 24-year-old has the skill, commitment and work rate to walk into the Arsenal first team, which knocks Kieran Gibbs down a place behind Nacho Monreal, and for a 26-year-old looking to make a World Cup squad, that is not good news.

While it may not make too much of a difference to the Spaniard, who has slowly started playing and readapting to an old role as a central defender towards the tail end of last season, it’s Gibbs who suffers the most.

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The English international made only 22 appearances last season, including eleven games in the Premier League according to Whoscored. These stats only mean that the only way Gibbs can make it to Russia 2018, is if he leaves the Emirates in search of first team football, and with Rafa Benitez, along with his newly promoted Newcastle United, very interested in the 26-year-old and Carl Jenkinson’s services, it looks like Arsenal’s British core is slowly coming to an end.