Originally posted on Goonersphere.
Certain players are judged a little more than others. This comes as a result of a heavier expectation, which in turn is created by the pedigree of the player and more often than not, a hefty pricetag.
The parameters with which these stars are gauged differ though. With strikers, the inevitable number we all look at is goals.
Assists and shot efficiency are all valuable to us, but it is the frequency they hit the onion bag that is at the crux of things.
Midfielders have perhaps the toughest of requirements to make the grade. Passing, tackling, successful take-ons, passing percentage. Pretty much all facets of the game we scrutinise each day are categories a midfielder is expected to shine in.
What does happen though, regardless of the player and the position, is that some of these men who wear the shirt are given certain allowances. There are players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mohamed Elneny, on occasion Aaron Ramsey, that receive less lambasting as they rarely enjoy long runs in the team. A player who is not allowed the staple of accruing some rhythm and sharpness should warrant a less invasive lens hovered over their every move.
Then, there are players like Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs. Both players have not really enjoyed a long stint in the team for a while. Whether this be through injury or poor form is not the point. What really should be looked at is why they are both unfairly judged even though they have both suffered the same fate as The Ox, Elneny and others. The majority of fans, if asked, would say – Gibbs especially – that they have not been good enough.
Theo has stepped up to the plate this season, and his goal rate in terms of minutes speaks for itself. Never the most productive over ninety minutes, the England attacker does pop up with goals even if he has not had the best of times during the game. What of Gibbs though?
The constant presence of Nacho Monreal has stunted Gibbs’ Arsenal career. The first season the Spaniard arrived, Gibbs held his place as Nacho acclimatised, but since then, Monreal has well and truly won the battle between the two left footed defenders. It has meant that Gibbs has needed to improve, to show his worth.
The last two seasons for Gibbs has been sporadic at best. Drafted in and used as a remedy for ills on the pitch, he has not been granted the chance to gain rhythm. Instead, he has been put into the side here and there, feeding from titbits.
Gibbs has shown incredible levels of patience as the understudy to Nacho. The last two campaigns has seen him grow as a player, perhaps learning the finer nuances of his role from the player who has kept him out of the side. Is he first team material though?
Bearing in mind the above paragraphs, Gibbs has been pretty reliable in his rare outings. Solid in attack and keeping it simple in defence, the former England man has done all this without the sharpness afforded to others. This leaves a dilemma of sorts.
Nacho Monreal looks ever likely to leave the club, with Athletic Bilbao sniffing around in pursuit. Does Arsenal stay with Gibbs and perhaps elevate Cohen Bramall into the backup position? Or does new boy Sead Kolasinac instantly take the shirt?
If we continually replace then the youth at the club will never flourish. More importantly, the players who do trust in the values of patience will think that particular trait is foolish. We need to reward those who have stuck with us and reward those who have improved when necessary.
Gibbs is one of these players. The last time he was a guaranteed start, Gibbs just failed to make the grade. Now, he is at the level where he can produce the level needed even without a run in the side.
A lot will hinge on pre-season and if he can continue to maintain fitness. If he does, then the number 3 shirt should be open for a battle between Gibbs and Kolasinac.