West Bromwich Albion have signed left back Kieran Gibbs from Arsenal for a reported transfer fee of $9 million.
Gibbs, 27, has spent his entire professional career with the Gunners after joining the club at the age of 14 and progressing through their academy.
The England international has signed a four-year deal with the Baggies as he reportedly failed to agree personal terms with Watford.
Over the past two seasons he has made just 26 total appearances in the Premier League with Nacho Monreal becoming the first-choice left back for Arsene Wenger.
Gibbs leaves Arsenal having made 230 appearances in all competitions, scoring six times and with three FA Cup winners medals.
Needless to say, Gibbs is looking forward to getting back to regular action as the Baggies push for a top 10 finish. He will battle with Allan Nyom for the starting spot at left back, with Chris Brunt also able to fill that role in either a back four or three for Tony Pulis‘ side.
It seems like Arsene Wenger’s men will once again be without Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker on Saturday against Newcastle United (7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) at St James’ Park.
Speaking to the media during his press conference on Thursday, Wenger confirmed that his captain Mertesacker is still suffering with illness, while Koscielny is having a test which will reveal the extent of the damage on his back.
“Mertesacker is still sick and we will know more about Koscielny today,” Wenger said. “He might have a test on his back today and I will certainly know more tomorrow morning. The less likely to be fit is Mertesacker.”
“I would like them to be available but that’s part of the season, you can’t complain about that.”
Gabriel and Calum Chambers stepped in to play center back and the latter certainly looked a little off the pace, especially in the first half as Liverpool his the crossbar through Philippe Coutinho, while he also had a superb shot tipped onto the post by Petr Cech and Arsenal’s goalkeeper made another stunning stop from close-range as Christian Benteke lost Gabriel and Chambers in the box.
If both Koscielny and Mertesacker miss out again, Nacho Monreal could come in to center back from left back and Kieran Gibbs may play at left back with Chambers’ shaky display a concern. Newcastle is a difficult place to go and as Aleksandar Mitrovic has showed so far in his opening three games for the Magpies, he will not give whoever plays in the heart of Arsenal’s defense a minute’s rest on Saturday.
With the Gunners accumulating just four points from their opening three games, losing two highly-experienced center backs who forged a formidable partnership over the past two years is not ideal.
Let’s see if Arsenal’s squad can deal with these spate of injuries to start the season as Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck are also missing from the squad.
As the 2015-16 Premier League season gets ready to spread its wings this weekend, Pro Soccer Talk is getting you ready with a week full of projections, lists, news and views.
Yet again, this year’s Premier League title figures to be a four-horse race featuring all the usual suspects from the top of the table year after year — Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, in a totally alphabetical, non-preferential order.
For a number of years, the narrative surrounding Arsenal was that they play beautiful football — perhaps too beautiful — and lacked the necessary experience, guile and defensive nuance to grind out ugly, tight games against the league’s other top teams.
The summer arrival of longtime Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech does two things for Arsene Wenger’s side ahead of the 2015-16 season: 1) gives the Gunners one of best — still — veteran goalkeepers in the league (13 major trophies won in 11 seasons at Chelsea), a position which has been in constant flux since Jens Lehmann’s first departure in 2008; and 2) automatically guarantees a more organized defensive unit capable of making in-game adjustments on the fly without the directives of Wenger.
Recent history shows that to win the PL, a team must possess an elite defensive unit capable of conceding far fewer than a goal per game, or a lethal attack capable of averaging close to or more than two goals per game. Arsenal’s best hope of winning the league this season is with the former (36 goals conceded in 2014-15 — four off the pace of league winners Chelsea — while scoring just 71 — 12 off the pace of high-scoring Man City).
Of the last 13 Premier League-winning sides, all 13 won the title on the back the league’s stingiest defense and/or highest scoring attack. Of the 13, four possessed both a league-leading defense and attack (Arsenal – 2004; Chelsea – 2006; Man United – 2008; Man City – 2012), while four (Man United – 2003, 2009; Chelsea – 2005, 2015) possessed just the league’s best defense, and the other five (Man United – 2007, 2011, 2013; Chelsea – 2010; Man City – 2014) the most potent attack.
Since winning their last league title in 2004, Arsenal have topped the charts in any of the above categories just once — the 2004-05 season when they outscored the next highest-scoring team, Chelsea, by 15 goals, but finished second to the Blues, 12 points off the title.
While his most basic duty a Arsenal net-minder will be to save the shots and command his 18-yard box in a way that Wojciech Szczesny, David Ospina, Lukasz Fabianski and Manuel Almunia were unable to do for the Gunners, Cech’s biggest impact on the current Arsenal team will be found in the confidence and acumen passed down to Arsenal current crop of promising young defenders, like Calum Chambers, Gabriel Paulista, Kieran Gibbs and Hector Bellerin.
With Cech in goal, you almost have to believe that Arsenal are capable of defending opposition sides at an unparalleled level and finishing the 2015-16 season right back where they find themselves now, at the very top, albeit only by virtue of alphabetical order.
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger praised the Singapore Select for their tenacious play, holding Arsenal to just one goal through the first hour before capitulating to a 4-0 loss. They’ll take on a Stoke City side that was ultimately listless in front of net in a 0-0 draw.
Then, at 8:30 a.m. ET Arsenal takes on Everton in the final. The Toffees advanced on penalties over Stoke that featured a Tim Howard save and a Phil Jagielka winner. Arsenal were prolific against their inferior opponents with young players, but confirms the senior team players who missed out previously will feature against their Premier League opponents.
Those include Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, and new goalkeeper signing Petr Cech.
Aston Villa failed to turn up for an extremely one-sided final, with the Gunners bossing the game from start to finish. Theo Walcott’s powerful volley just before the broke gave Arsenal a deserved lead, then Alexis Sanchez’s thunderbolt, Per Mertesacker’s header and a late Olivier Giroud flick added sufficient gloss to the scoreline.
Here’s three things we learned from Wembley as the Gunners finished off the 2014-15 season in style.
It was a big call from Wenger to start Walcott over Oliver Giroud up top, despite his hat trick in the final game of the PL season against West Brom, but it paid off. Big time. In the 40th minute Walcott arrived right on cue as Sanchez’s header fell to the Englishman in the box and he rifled home a left-footed volley. 1-0 to Arsenal and a sea of yellow erupted behind the goal he scored in.
Walcott spent most of the first half in a central position but when he switched with Sanchez and moved out left, Villa couldn’t cope. 16 months since his horrendous knee injury for Arsenal in an FA Cup match vs. Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium, Walcott’s resurgence was poignantly displayed on the biggest stage. Just 26, it seems like his new contract at Arsenal is edging ever closer as he has just one-year remaining on his current deal. on Saturday Walcott had another effort superbly blocked on the line by Kieran Richardson before he put Arsenal ahead and was denied further goals by another block from Jores Okore, then he mistimed his run as Shay Given denied him in the second half. His pace in behind caused Villa all kinds of problems and although many believe he’s better out wide, Walcott’s pace means he can be dangerous anywhere across the frontline in the attacking third. His finishing has improved in recent seasons and his return to form is a welcome sight for Wenger as he now has a plethora of options in attack.
When Walcott was substituted in the 77th minute, Arsenal’s fans serenaded him with the famous chants of “Theo, Theo!” If he carries this form into the offseason and next season, we will be hearing plenty more of that.
ARSENAL’S DEPTH, 2-4-4 TOO MUCH TO HANDLE
When Arsenal is good, they are really good. Saturday was one of those days as their fluid formation saw them overpower Villa out wide and the Midlands outfit couldn’t grab a stranglehold on proceedings. Villa have played Arsenal three times this season and have scored 12 times without conceding in 4-0, 3-0 and 5-0 drubbings. Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin pushed forward from their respective left back and right back positions and were able to do that at will as Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla sat in front of the back four to shield center backs Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny superbly. With Walcott and Sanchez buzzing around centrally, then Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey popping up in dangerous positions (Ramsey could have scored at least twice in the first half), Villa’s defense was overwhelmed with the overloaded situations that kept cropping up in Arsenal’s favor.
For the final 15 minutes, Giroud and Jack Wilshere came off the bench for Arsenal which showcased their strength in depth. Danny Welbeck was injured. So too Mathieu Debuchy. Gabriel and Kieran Gibbs were unused subs, plus Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on late on. That is some squad. If you look back to their FA Cup victory over Hull City 12 months ago, the Gunners are much stronger overall and are improving as a group as they finished one spot higher this season compared to the last.
If Wenger can add a top class goalkeeper and center forward, plus maybe a box-to-box midfielder, they may become serious challengers for the PL title next season. The strength of their squad is hugely impressive and on days like this we are reminded that Arsenal are a joy to watch when everything clicks into place.
MASSIVE OVERHAUL NEEDED FOR VILLA
Simply put, Villa didn’t show up to Wembley. Tim Sherwood’s side were awful from the first minute and failed to test Arsenal’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for the entire 90 minutes. Villa’s players looked stiff, tense, nervous. They had no reason to be. Premier League survival had been sealed two weeks ago and they could treat this as a bonus game, a match where they had nothing to lose. They were overrun in midfield as Fabian Delph’s industry often saw him run into dead ends, plus the Villans could hardly connect a pass in the final third with Christian Benteke and Jack Grealish unable to impact the game. At the back, central defenders Jores Okore and Ron Vlaar just couldn’t contain the pace and direct running of Walcott and Sanchez. Benteke lost Mertesacker from a corner on Arsenal’s third goal, with the Belgium striker looking out of sorts as rumors grow of a $45 million release clause in his contract and Liverpool looking to trigger it.
Sherwood completed the job he was brought in to do in February: keep Villa in the PL. But the showpiece FA Cup final showcased how much of a job he has on his hands to rebuild Villa over the summer. Sherwood won’t have much cash to spend and if he doesn’t get creative or offload Benteke to raise the cash to bring in new signings, another relegation battle lies ahead on this showing. It was an awful day for Villa at Wembley.