It is that left back thing all over again

We had a technical glitch this lunchtime – not an attack, just a server glitch – and although this article was published it then vanished and reappeared with the wrong date on it.  So I’m publishing it again, in case you were not quite quick enough to catch it last time.

Bloody Computers!


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.

16 Replies to “It is that left back thing all over again”

  1. Nicky was the one person who got in a comment before the article vanished and then re-appeared so I am re-posting his comment.,,

    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. A perfect left wing back is a rarity. Last one we had was Cole who was world class. Our current two are good enough without that extra that elevates either to true international status.
    Personally I prefer Nacho for his better defensive qualities. When Gibbs starts we are regularly targeted down that side, and goals uoften result, also as we saw in the England game Gibbs is not great at defending a cross from the opposite wing.
    It’s Nacho for me, with Gibbs alternating when Debuchy plays on the opposite side.

  3. Nicky,
    after I had send in the article I thought that I should have mentioned that I could find no stat about the ‘use of the right foot for left backs’ 😉

  4. Despite the calls for the urgent need of a ‘world class’ left back by the fools( why skirt the issue?) , I am quite happy with the two we have .
    With some more playing time and the maturity that comes with age , they will both be remembered as very good pros that graced this team, and gave their all for the club .
    Do have to agree with nicky that Gibbs , use his right foot more often .

  5. Brickfields
    Who’s been calling for the urgent need of a world class left back?
    I’m sure it’s not an issue, and most of our supporters seem satisfied with the sub world class two that we have.
    I know I am.

  6. Both Monreal and Gibbs will know to up their game next season, but a good youngster pushing them won’t hurt Arsenal at all.

  7. Personally, I just have more confidence in Monreal’s all-round game, right now. When I see Gibbs’ inclusion on the teamsheet it is an indicator, to me, that AW is pushing for offence on that flank. Gibbs is young, though, and I expect he will improve and that includes getting some confidence in his right foot. I expect he uses it training but is uncomfortable when closely marked in games.

  8. Excellent work, Walter. 🙂

    As I’ve pointed out before, Nacho’s game has improved ever since he was given a real help on the left wing. Whether Arsene uses Alexis or Welbeck there is irrelevant – the opponents can’t overlap without thinking Alexis or Welbz would punish them on the counter.

    If you recall that Atkinson-directed defeat at the Etihad last season, you’ll notice that we were mauled down our left side due as Zabaleta had all the time in the world to make overlaps. This season Nacho had space to do overlaps of his own at the Etihad turf. 🙂

    At this moment, I give the nod to Monreal in the whole Monreal-Gibbs conundrum because I think Spanish full-backs (and players overall) have better tactical education than the English ones. English full-backs tend to get caught too high while the Spanish ones are more responsible and have better timing for overlaps. That might be the reason why Arsene decided to use Monreal as Mertesacker’s partner during Koscielny’s absence even if Gibbs – based on pace – would be a more natural stand-in for Kos.

  9. I know this is cheating, but I just read the article about our goalies, and I agree with somebody’s comment that Chez is improving his game and it might be that Ospina’s presence is helping there. He was great in the Cup Final. If so, this might be part of the Wenger master plan.

  10. Unfortunately for Gibbs, Monreal really turned up last season. Wherever he was deployed he did a good job. For me he always was the better player, and really couldn’t get when people were laying into him the year before. Gibbs is a very good LB too, but unlucky for him he’s competing with a top defender.

    Off topic
    Watching my first women’s world cup match at this tournament, Cameroon – Switzerland, and I must say I’m shocked by the honesty on display. The mandatory diving/simulation, time-wasting, mobbing the ref, play-acting, handbags stuff, etc, that we have come to accept as part of football is missing. And to think we should be expecting to see more of that in a ladies tournament, it’s like this is how the men should be playing. I always knew the male game was now painful to watch but the contrast with the ladies game is shocking. I don’t think there was a single stoppage in the first half at all; even though there is some hard tackling and serious shoulder charging going on the girls are just getting up and getting on with it. These overpaid prima donnas we call world class superstars should all hang their heads in shame. Embarrassing. This is how the game should be played.

  11. Just to add, I heard in the pre match preview one of the Swiss players got the England goalie sent off through play acting but sure that is the exception rather than the rule here….

  12. Nicky and the Gibbs dilemma…..

    Well, Gibbs has a week right foot. But it was more obvious this season. With Alexis moving inside at every given opportunity, Gibbs was left to deal with 2 defenders when in attack. This coupled with ARSENALs ‘make the best use of possession’ approach forces Gibbs to either cut in and pass back or go to the byline and try to win a corner. If Alexis can stay wide ‘a little longer’ before cutting in, we could have a devastating combination there.

    Having said that, Gibbs has to work his right foot. More options in your ARSENAL, better.

  13. @ARSENAL 13,
    You rightly emphasise the point I make.
    “ cut in and pass back..”.
    If only he could use his right boot, he wouldn’t need to pass BACK, but would add to the momentum of the attack. Invariably we have forwards in central positions and on the right wing waiting for that crucial right-footed pass or cross….which never arrives. 😉

  14. Al, I thought the woman pundits were better too. Not full of themselves, not repeating some hackneyed phrases, but quietly and knowledgeably commenting on the match.

  15. Al

    USA vs Nigeria. Wonderful volley by Wambach. But, before that in the game a USA player pushed a Nigeria player who was already out of bounds in the back. That should have been a yellow, not ignored. If only Debuchy was the referee.

    I gather a big chunk of retail has decided to ignore the Womans World Cup. Their loss, they are always looking for new ways to advertise, and they turn their noses up at this? It’s a good sport, and as being well demonstrated in Canada. Fair play, hard work, skill, athletism.

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