Four seasons ago Arsenal “acquired” from AS Monaco a young left-back. The deal was kept quiet as Monaco were not happy with Arsenal’s methods, the transfer was sorted out as part of the Adebayor transfer and Armand Traore started to play football for Arsenal.
Traore is lightening quick, quicker than Clichy and that is saying something. Traore made his Arsenal debut against West Brom, he went on to play a further seven games and was our left-back in the Carling Cup final against Chelsea. Was Traore going to provide the cover we so badly needed for Clichy who had to play every game? Would Traore develop into a better left-back than Clichy?
Well Traore was always better going forward than defending. Arsene persisted with him at left-back, but following two big defeats last season against Tottenham and Manchester United in the Carling Cup and FA Cup respectively, Arsene had second thoughts. The young Frenchman spent the rest of the season playing as a left-winger in the reserves. Arsene then showed his hand when Traore came on as a sub towards the end of last season as a winger. Traore’s future had been decided, he will be a winger with pace, a mean cross, but he will need to develop his trickery.
With this in mind Armand Traore was sent to Portsmouth in August to spend a year on loan to develop his game. At Portsmouth, Traore has played as a winger. Whilst at Portsmouth he has been a regular, earning some great reviews.
His major problem is what he will do next season. Arsenal has Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky, Wilshere, and Walcott and arguably Eboue who will all contest the two wide berths. I do not see Traore breaking that cartel next season. There are some rumours that Harry Redknapp is interested in signing him on a permanent basis at Tottenham. I do not see Arsene or the Arsenal hierarchy being too willing to do business with our arch rivals, even if they offer us £6 million. A more logical route will be for Traore to spend another season on loan at a Premiership club. He will then have two seasons experience at the top level; he will be 21 years old and then ready to fight for his place in the team.
The story of our current left-back understudy has been the reverse. Kieran
Gibbs started as a left-winger, again great pace, athletic, but as an attacking wide player he had the tricks and skills to go past opponents, furthermore, unlike some of his fellow full-backs, he can cross the ball.
Kieran is a product of our youth academy and made his debut against Sheffield United in September 2007. Arsene took the decision that Gibbs was better suited to playing as a left-back. This is probably because as a former left-winger he knew how to attack, was not afraid to shoot and will in the long-run give more offensively than Clichy. Gibbs has been our left-back in the Carling Cup, but more importantly has played all three FA Cup matches, plus he replaced Gale Clichy against Tottenham in the recent game.
Gibbs has not looked phased at having to play at left-back. He has a few things to work on defensively as he has only come against Championship teams, the real test will be when he exposed to Premiership attackers.
Unlike our recent set of left-backs, Clichy, Cole, Sylvinho, Winterburn, Sansom, Kieran Gibbs is tall, no longer will teams be able to place their centre forward against him and expect him to win everything in the air. If Gibbs is patient, and he looks like a lad with his head screwed on, and he learns the art of defending, he will replace Clichy in a couple of seasons. He has the attacking attributes that have been missing from that flank.
The Arsenal fans will take to Kieran Gibbs as they always give extra support to boys that come through the ranks. When Gibbs establishes himself in the team it will be another nail in the coffin of the Wenger knockers who like to point out that he is unable to nurture and develop young English players.