Arsenal star says squad is strong enough to challenge for FA Cup, Champions League and top four
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Kieran Gibbs believes Arsenal now possess the necessary strength in depth to mount a genuine challenge for success in three competitions.
The Gunners left-back played the full 90 minutes as the FA Cup holders overcame Middlesbrough 2-0 on Sunday to advance to the last eight of this year’s tournament.
Retaining the FA Cup is a major target for Arsenal, who will also resume their Champions League campaign next week when they host Monaco in the first leg of their last 16 clash.
And Gibbs, who was handed a rare outing after losing his place to Nacho Monreal in recent weeks, feels their battle for the left-back berth is indicative of the competition for places that exists throughout the squad.
“I played quite a lot of the first half of the season next to him [Monreal], when Laurent Koscielny was injured,” said Gibbs. “He has done well to adapt from left-back to centre-back, so you have to give him credit for that.
“Since I came back from my injury the boss said that Nacho has done well and given me a good challenge. He wants me to stay focused and the more both of us are on the top of our games, the better it is for the team.
“It is probably the first time it has been like this for a while because normally we have something gone wrong with a player and the team doesn’t pick itself, but it has been easier in the past.
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“Now, when you keep everyone fit for a while obviously you can only fit 11 men on the pitch. I have to be patient and it’s important that I take the opportunity when I get a game.
“We need a big squad. We certainly have the squad to compete on three fronts at the moment and this is what we want to do. We are hungry to defend the FA Cup.
“We are not going to think that because we won it last year, it is not in our priorities because all three competitions are. It is a big opportunity for us and we are through to the next round.”
Sunday’s fifth round victory over the Teessiders saw a debut for the most recent addition to Arsenal’s squad – defender Gabriel Paulista, who cost them £11m from Villarreal last month.
The Brazilian partnered Laurent Koscielny in central defence and Gibbs was impressed by his new team-mate, as well as confidently predicting it will not take him long to grasp the basics of the English language.
“He doesn’t speak any English at the moment and it was the same with Alexis [Sanchez] when he came,” Gibbs recalled.
“It won’t take him long. We’ve brushed him up on a few of the sayings for him to get used to.
“In training and stuff in the week, [assistant manager] Steve [Bould] goes through it with him with one of the Spanish boys, who then translates for him what it means in English.
“So he understands when it is said to him on the pitch and he knows what to do. One of the biggest things that I’ve realised is that he embraces the physical side of the game and that’s what we want from a centre-half.
“I felt he came in on his debut and did extremely well. He looks like he has been playing at this level for a long time and he has settled in straight away which is good for us.
“At this stage of the season, we don’t want to have any excuses that we fell short from injuries. It is nice to know that we have got a good solid central defence who are all available.”