Arsene Wenger has admitted that Kieran Gibbs‘ departure hurt more than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ahead of Arsenal‘s clash against West Brom on Monday.
Gibbs left for the Hawthorns in a £7m deal on the penultimate day of the transfer window, with Wenger admitting that his departure felt like losing a family member. The full-back progressed through the academy ranks at Arsenal before breaking into the first team at 18, representing the club 230 clubs in all competitions.
The 27-year-old featured in just 11 Premier League games last term, the summer arrival of Sead Kolasinac pushing him further down the pecking order at the Emirates. West Brom inquired for the player on the eve of deadline day, and Gibbs’ long-time manager Wenger was disappointed to see the left-back depart as he sought to play more regular first-team action.
Speaking ahead of Gibbs’ return to the Emirates with Tony Pulis’ West Brom on Monday, Wenger was asked if Gibbs’ departure felt like a family loss: “Of course. And I believe that for (players that leave) it must be difficult to make that step as well.
“He did not ask to leave, it was a mutual decision. He wanted to play – he’s 27, or 28. You want to play at that age.
“It was a difficult decision but on the other hand when a guy has given you so many years you have to accept that if he is not sure to play.
A graduate of Arsenal’s academy, Gibbs fell out of favour as Wenger preferred Nacho Monreal as his first choice left-back towards the end of his time at the Emirates.
“It is a fact that we have got Kolasinac, you cannot keep three left-backs (along with Monreal).”
Wenger conceded that it was painful to lose players who had been at the club for a long time – including Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made the move to Anfield on deadline day for £35m who had built their career at the Emirates.
The Arsenal boss said that the loss of Gibbs hurt more, however, since he had been at the club from a younger age – and had watched him develop into the player he is today, taking responsibility for shaping him into a full-back from a left winger.
“Overall it’s true that with Gibbs (it hurt) more than Chamberlain because he had been educated at Arsenal from the age of 10,” said Wenger.
“When he arrived he was a left-winger. I transformed him into a full-back because he was not necessarily rated as a guy who would make it as a left winger but I saw something in him that was very intelligent, with pace, that made me feel he could make it as a left-back.
“Academy players carry the values that you think are important, which are based on mental qualities, humility, respect and commitment, and as well football qualities which means you always try to play in a positive way.”
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