Kieran Gibbs: Arsenal have enough strength in depth at last
Full-back Kieran Gibbs claims Arsenal’s march into the FA Cup quarter-finals, where they will face Manchester United/Preston, shows the Gunners now have the squad to last the distance on all fronts this season.
Arsenal saw off the challenge of Sky Bet Championship promotion chasers Middlesbrough 2-0 with at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, as the holders comfortably avoided following Manchester City and Chelsea in crashing out following a quickfire first-half double from Olivier Giroud.
Gibbs was one of several changes selected by manager Arsene Wenger, the left-back making his first start since the fourth-round FA Cup tie at Brighton, while Gabriel Paulista was handed a debut at centre-half after a £13million January move from Villarreal. Theo Walcott was on the bench despite three goals in his last four appearances.
With England midfielder Jack Wilshere set for an imminent return from three months out after ankle surgery, competition for places in the Arsenal first XI is fierce.
Gibbs believes that can only stand the squad in good stead for the challenges ahead, with the battle to get into the Premier League top four continuing at Crystal Palace next weekend, before the first leg of the Champions League last 16 clash against Monaco.
“It is probably the first time it has been like this for a while,” said Gibbs, whose low cross set up Giroud’s opening goal after a slide-rule pass out to the flank from Santi Cazorla. It has been easier (to get selected) in the past. Now, when you keep everyone fit for a while obviously you can only fit 11 men on the pitch.”
One player who expects to be back at the Emirates for next season is German striker Lucas Podolski, who is out on loan with Inter Milan.
Podolski, 29, joined Inter until the end of the season in January. The Germany international admits that he endured a difficult period at Arsenal, but says his job in North London is not over yet.
“As thing stand now, I will return to London in the summer,” he said.