Theo Walcott has joined Arsene Wenger in praising Kieran Gibbs after the left-back made a stunning match-winning challenge in injury-time against West Bromwich Albion to ensure the Gunners will play Champion League football next season.
Sent on as a substitute in the second half, the England international threw himself in front of a low Billy Jones drive, with a goal for the hosts looking almost certain. The incident came at the end of an action-packed cameo by the 22-year-old which saw him also make a number of important headed clearances.
Speaking after the game about the contribution of his close mate, Walcott told Arsenal.com:
“I have to give credit to Kieran Gibbs. The boss has always says, ‘you have to be ready when you come off the bench’ and Gibbsy made probably made the most important tackle of his career so far.
“You never know what would have happened as we have a world-class keeper behind him and he could have stopped it, but you have to give credit to Gibbo.”
Wenger himself had already paid lip service to the heart-stopping moment, praising his young charge:
“I feel he came on very well. We suffered on that flank in the second half but when he came on he won headers and won tackles to get us out of difficult situations. He deserves huge credit for that tackle.”
Having been replaced in the starting lineup by Andre Santos after a dodgy performance against Norwich, it’s great that Gibbs ends the season a hero who can indirectly claim to have earned the club £30 million with one tackle. Fingers crossed he can take confidence from the praise coming his way from teammates and fans and build on his first season as regular starter at the Emirates.
You can see a video of Gibbs’ block (and Arsene’s little hug of Pat Rice), here.