When Kieran Gibbs was picked ahead of Leighton Baines for the game against San Marino, much was spoken about the Arsenal man’s future in the Three Lions team. The Arsenal man returned to the national team after nearly four years, and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger even went on record to say it was ‘justice’ that Gibbs had been picked and that he deserved his place:
I like it and there’s nobody more happy than me to see him [in the England team again]. I always trusted Kieran Gibbs to have that in his locker and to see that he finally gets his chance again is great news for me.
I think mentally he has made a step forward in the last month, by taking more responsibility and by showing his huge potential.
It’s all there for Kieran and I believe that everybody at the club thinks it’s justice done that he’s back in the national team.
He has had very difficult days. There’s nothing that tests your mental strength more than the repetition of injuries. We have a fierce example here, in Abou Diaby.
Kieran has had his problems but he’s recovered every time and I’m very happy for him.
But for the away game against Estonia, who are a tougher proposition compared to San Marino, Leighton Baines has returned to the team to reclaim his spot. The Everton full back has established himself as the first choice for manager Roy Hodgson, and it looks unlikely to change in the near future. The manager himself said as much:
We wanted to protect one or two players for the next game.
So I decided to speak to Leighton and say that, ‘under normal circumstances you would have played but we trust you and don’t think it will affect you if you play on Sunday’.
This is England. If we are going to be any good we are going to need the pressure that comes from getting happy for being chosen but knowing, ‘I better do the job that my team mates expect as this guy is breathing down my neck’.
Evidently Hodgson wants the players to perform to their maximum and will then pick according to form. But despite a rather good showing from Kieran Gibbs, he is now on the bench, and it is evident he has much work to do if he is to become the first choice.
Leighton Baines is at the peak of his career, and has been a key player for his club for the past couple of seasons. Meanwhile Gibbs, like several of his Arsenal teammates, has been severely hampered by injuries. Thus it is obvious that Baines is England’s first choice as well, and will probably remain so for the next major tournament, the Euro 2016.
A lot can happen between now and then of course, but based on the current scenario it is going to take a sensational season for Kieran Gibbs if he wants to replace Baines on the team sheet.