Much of the credit for Arsenal’s table-topping form this season must be assigned to the north London side’s attacking weaponry, with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil gaining plaudits for their excellent form.
However, the Gunners’ rearguard has looked as solid this year as it has in the recent memory, with a settled back four proving distinctly tough to break down.
One of the unsung heroes must surely be Kieran Gibbs, who has had an excellent start to the new campaign without gaining the recognition of some of his high-profile team-mates.
However, the left-back put in another accomplished performance for Arsène Wenger’s men in their 3-0 win over Cardiff on Saturday and is becoming an important player for Arsenal.
With Spain international Nacho Monreal also at Wenger’s disposal, Gibbs was far from guaranteed a place in the Arsenal starting XI at the beginning of the season, but has made the left-back berth his own this term.
One of the few English players in the Gunners’ squad, Gibbs surely must be considered for national recognition as the Three Lions’ World Cup campaign looms large in the not-so distant future.
However, despite Gibbs playing a significant role in Arsenal’s rise to the top of the Premier League standings, the full-back looks set to struggle to commandeer a place on the plane to Brazil next summer.
Despite selection limitations in some positions for Roy Hodgson, the England boss has a glut of top left-backs to choose from. As such, an international-quality player in this position is likely to miss the chance to feature on world football’s biggest stage.
While both of the current left-back options have suffered debilitating injuries of late at their clubs and face spells on the sidelines, Gibbs has been excelling for the Premier League’s in-form side.
But with probable space for only two left-backs in Hodgson’s contingent, which of these three is set for disappointment?
Cole’s experience of earning over 100 caps for his country will certainly be a key element in Hodgson’s decision. On first sight it is almost unimaginable that England would take off for Brazil without the Chelsea man if he is available, but there is certainly a case to suggest that Cole is not 100 per cent guaranteed to make the squad given the quality of the other two players.
Baines has prospered at national level during qualifying in Cole’s absence, putting in some strong performances in victories to seal a place at the World Cup. The Everton defender adds an extra dimension to the side when included, as his attacking intent and remarkable delivery make him an additional offensive threat.
Cole is arguably the best defender, with Baines the most progressive on the front foot; Gibbs sits somewhere in the middle.
The Arsenal man’s main attribute this term has been his solidarity, with Gibbs displaying excellent positional awareness, combativeness in the tackle and good reading of the game. When his side is on the ball, Gibbs is tidy in possession and has the pace and movement to provide an attacking threat, but has been guilty of substandard delivery when in space on occasion.
If the squad is picked on form it will be very interesting to see just who makes the contingent, with Gibbs in the running for inclusion at the expense of either Baines or Cole.