Arsenal’s season in review: the left back

By Walter Broeckx

Next in our series where we look back at last season we move on to the left back.

We had two players playing in that position: Gibbs and Monreal. Bellerin did play there once in the CL but in this series we keep it to the PL only.

When you look at the numbers you will see that Gibbs had 22 matches and Monreal 28. So more than the 38 PL matches. But this is down to the fact that both players have been on the pitch together although of course only one played left back. Monreal has played in the centre of the defence and both players have been on and played left midfield when we had to defend a small lead.

The numbers:

Kieran Gibbs Nacho Monreal
22 Games Played 28
1657 Minutes played 2311
888 Passes 1247
81.8% Passing accuracy 85.6%
78.8% Passing accuracy opp. half 80.7%
111 Duels won 167
94 Duels lost 99
54.1% Duels won % 62.8%
31 Aerial Duels won 79
46 Aerial duels lost 48
40.3% Aerial duels won % 62.2%
106 Recoveries 163
32 Tackles won 48
12 Tackles lost 17
72.7% Tackles won % 73.8%
64 Clearances 124
2 Blocks 10
53 Interceptions 85
0 Penalties conceded 0
7 Fouls won 19
17 Fouls conceded 24
3 Yellow cards 3
0 Red cards 0
0 Goals 0
0 Minutes per goal 0
2 Total shots on target 1
7 Total shots off target 1
22.2% Shooting accuracy 50%
13 Successful crosses 5
56 Unsuccessful crosses 42
18.8% Successful crosses % 10.6%
3 Assists 1
15 Chances created 12
1 Offsides 1
0 Penalties won 1

There was not much difference in the passing accuracy of both players. Both well above 80% with a slightly better score for Monreal. Monreal keeping the number above 80% when it comes to passing accuracy in the oppositions half. Neither player seems to give the ball away cheaply it seems.

When we look at the duels won we see that Monreal has won 62.8% of his duels compared to only 54.1% for Gibbs. And when we also look at the aerial duels we see that Monral again has a score of 62.2% and Gibbs in this case drops to only 40.3%. And just as at right back both players have the same height (1.78m). So the numbers of Monreal looks impressive and Gibbs should really add this to his game. It is most of all down to timing and something you can learn.

When we look at recoveries we see that Monreal has a better score than Gibbs. But if we look at it on a recoveries per minute there is only a difference of 1 minutes between both players. So not a major difference.

If we look at the percentage of tackles won there is also not much difference between both players with both of them having a score around 72%-73%. Monreal has made more clearances than Gibbs and certainly when we look at it on the clearances per minute there is a rather big difference in favour of the Spaniard.

Neither defender conceded any penalties in the PL so that is also rather good. They don’t commit many fouls either. On average 1 per match. I always like this as it can indicate they don’t make fouls just to make fouls and thus concede silly free kicks.

Despite them running the flank a lot their attacking contribution is not that big. Both didn’t score in the PL but we all remember important goals like the Monreal goal at Old Trafford in the FA cup and the Gibbs goal at Anderlecht when all seemed lost.

The shooting accuracy of Monreal is better when we look at shots on target. Monreal seems more considerate when it comes to shooting as Gibbs is more going for power and less accuracy when he shoots.

The number of successful crosses is in favour of Gibbs. And not surprisingly maybe as a result Gibbs has 3 assists to his name to only 1 for Monreal. Gibbs also creates more chances than Monreal. But Monreal won us a valuable penalty at Manchester City and set us on the way to a great victory.

The main conclusion is that there is not much difference between both players.

For me Monreal is the more defensive left back of the two of them. Gibbs the more one for going forward. And I think there is one of the problems for Wenger. If he plays both Gibbs and Bellerin we might be vulnerable at the back at times. Both their tendencies is to go forward might cost us then on a counter.

Gibbs will add more to the attack than Monreal in general. And he is a bit faster than Monreal. But Monreal has improved a lot this season and that has a lot to do with being more familiar with the PL and also being more certain of what he can do and what is expected of him. Add to that that Monreal has had a number of games in the centre of the defence last season and he surely didn’t do badly when he was played there.

So just as with the right backs where we had Debuchy who can step in if needed we can do the same with Monreal in case suddenly all our central defenders are injured.

I like both players a lot, to be honest. I thought Gibbs was going to make the left back spot his this season but Monreal surely gave him a big battle and won the confidence of the manager in the later part of the season.

My prediction for next season on who will have the most games? Throw a coin in the air I would say. I think their game time will largely depend on other issues. Bellerin and Gibbs are not the perfect combination as I said earlier in this article. So I think it will be most of the time a case of which pairing suits best. Bellerin+Monreal or Debuchy+Gibbs. When you use those combinations you are sure of having one of your full backs being more defensive and probably giving more balance to the team.

The anniversaries…

16 June 1982: Graham Rix and Kenny Sansom became the first Arsenal players to play for England in the final stages of the World Cup.

2 Replies to “Arsenal’s season in review: the left back”

  1. Walter, while I accept all you say about our two contestants for the left wing-back position, the failing of both (Gibbs, the worst) in only using the left boot, is a serious joint flaw.
    OK, they are both left-sided players but vas professional footballers they should be able to pass or even shoot with both feet. Even schoolboys are taught to do this.
    Yet Gibbs, assisting powerfully in our attack, will advance, cut inside and then, with the ball inevitably being transferred on to his right side, is forced to pass back to a colleague using his left boot, thus at least delaying, if not breaking down the attack. It happens time and time again and I simply cannot fathom out why this failing hasn’t been addressed by the coaches. Or perhaps it has and Gibbs cannot learn.
    Monreal has a similar problem. 😉

  2. Thanks Walter. The figures for Moreal, are they from his left back position or centre back? If the centre back figures were included, your comparism between them might not be fair.

    That being said, If Gibbs could work on his right leg, he’s going to be adding some goals to his game because he gets to good scoring positions a lot.

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