Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs says it is hard to force your way into the first team at the Emirates at the moment

Image: Kieran Gibbs says he is determined to make the most of his first-team opportunities at Arsenal

Kieran Gibbs says Arsenal have a squad which is strong enough to compete on three fronts this season.

The left-back says competition for first team places at the London club is intense at present, and thinks that will stand them in good stead as they head into a crucial stage of the campaign.

Arsene Wenger’s side will continue their pursuit of a top-four Premiership finish at Crystal Palace next Saturday and will then face Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

And they also have an FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to after a 2-0 fifth round victory at home to Middlesbrough on Sunday.

England international Gibbs made his first start in that match since the fourth round trip to Brighton and he set up Olivier Giroud for the opening goal.

And, with midfielder Jack Wilshere closing in on a return to action after three months out, the strength in depth at Arsenal is set to increase further.

"It is probably the first time it has been like this for a while," said Gibbs.

It has been easier (to get selected) in the past. Now, when you keep everyone fit for a while, obviously you can only fit 11 men on the pitch. We need a big squad and we certainly have the squad to compete on three fronts at the moment.
Kieran Gibbs

"It has been easier (to get selected) in the past. Now, when you keep everyone fit for a while, obviously you can only fit 11 men on the pitch.

"We need a big squad and we certainly have the squad to compete on three fronts at the moment.

"And we are hungry to defend the (FA Cup) trophy. We are not just going to think that, because we won it last year, it is not in our priorities, because all three competitions are.

"I have to be patient before I play and just take my opportunities.

"We spoke the other week and the boss just said that, since I came back from my injury, Nacho (Monreal) 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."

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Arsenal new boy Gabriel Paulista made his debut at centre-back against Boro and Gibbs was impressed by the £13m signing from Villarreal.

"He looks like he has been playing at this level for a long time,” said the full-back.

“He has settled in straight away and embraces the physical side of the game. That is what we want from a centre-half.

"Gabriel doesn't speak any English at the moment and it was the same with Alexis (Sanchez) when he came.

"It won't take him long. We have brushed him up on a few of the sayings for him to get used to.”

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