Tony Pulis confirms Arsenal sold Kieran Gibbs to West Brom for £5m after initially asking for £12m
It could end up being one the shrewdest signings of the summer, even if it was one of the most curious.
Tony Pulis has never been shy of converting centre-backs and central midfielders into full-backs, because he prefers to have height and strength in those positions.
Which is one of the reasons why, when Albion first enquired about Kieran Gibbs, the Baggies boss baulked at the £12million asking price Arsenal had slapped on the left-back.
Pulis was unwilling to spend that much on him, but later in the window, when Gibbs’s move to Watford fell through, Albion swooped in and snapped him up for £5m.
“I just thought Gibbs was too expensive,” he confirmed. “The £12m that Arsenal were talking about at the beginning of the season was too much.
"To get him for £5m over a period of time now is a good deal for us.”
On the face of it, that is a bargain in today’s market for an England international in the prime of his career, and an example why so many clubs engage in acts of brinkmanship and leave their business late.
Pulis, who purposefully avoided calling Arsene Wenger about Gibbs, has taken on a project not normally associated with him because he received glowing reports from two people he trusts in Wenger’s backroom staff.
“I played with Gerry Peyton, who’s their goalkeeping coach, for five years and I know him very well,” explained Pulis. “And I know ‘Bouldy’ (assistant manager Steve Bould) very well – he’s been a friend for a long, long time.
“So they were the two I contacted. I don’t know Arsene that well and when you’re dealing with managers, they want to tell you what they want to tell you to suit their clubs.”
Gibbs made his debut off the bench in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Brighton, and had a hand in Albion’s only goal of the game. His cameo was one of few positives from a disappointing day on the south coast.
Although Pulis has improved Albion’s squad over the past two and a half years, fans had grown tired of seeing several players shoehorned into left-back.
Gibbs’s arrival, therefore, was heralded among the fanbase, and was seen as a sign of progress.
Pulis himself has described the left-back as a ‘Rolls Royce’ and a ‘racehorse’, but he has also voiced concerns about his strength.
Gibbs has been given a tailored strength and conditioning programme to get up to speed.
“We’ve got to get him fit,” said Pulis. “I think he has struggled with injuries and that’s been a big factor at times in his career.
“You look at him and he’s a racehorse – he’s quick. He’s different to Grzegorz (Krychowiak), who’s a lot stronger physically and ‘Burkey’ (Oliver Burke), who are a lot stronger physically.
“So we’re going to have to be careful with Gibbo in that respect to make sure he knows that there are certain things you have to do to maintain your fitness at this level.
“At the moment that’s the big issue. With Gibbs, he needs training and a lot more core and strength work to maintain his fitness.”
Pulis and Wenger’s coaching methods are chalk and cheese in many respects, and when he arrived, Gibbs admitted himself that the Baggies boss could help him ‘develop in certain areas I may need to work on’.
His long-term aim is to get back into the England set-up, especially with a World Cup looming at the end of the season.
England boss Gareth Southgate has told his players they need to play regular football to be picked, but Pulis warned his left-back that is not necessarily guaranteed.
“I’m hoping he gets back in our team first then we’ll look at that after,” said the Welshman.
As long as he commits to the head coach's methods on the training pitch and is willing to hit the gym, Gibbs has every chance of being a success at the Baggies. But with Pulis’s history, it is by no means a given.