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Kieran Gibbs' Arsenal exit hurt more than Oxlade-Chamberlain's - Wenger

As debate swirls around Arsene Wenger's team selections, Paul Mariner gives us his preferred Arsenal starting XI.

LONDON -- Arsene Wenger says losing Kieran Gibbs this summer hurt more than the departure of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Gibbs left Arsenal after 13 years at the club to join West Brom and could come up against his former club on Monday when the Baggies visit the Emirates.

While it was a mutual decision for Gibbs to move, Wenger said his exit was more painful than Oxlade- Chamberlain's to Liverpool since the left-back had been at the club for such a long time.

"Yes [it hurts when such players leave] because ideally you want stability and you want players who carry the values through the generation," Wenger said. "It's true that Gibbs [hurt] more than Chamberlain, because Gibbs has been educated here from the age of [14].

"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 -- intelligence, pace -- that that made me feel that he could make it as a left-back."

Gibbs made 230 Arsenal appearances but often struggled with injuries and was a back-up to Nacho Monreal for the last two seasons. With Sead Kolasinac's arrival this summer as well, Wenger said it was natural for Gibbs to go somewhere else.

"He wanted to play. He's 27, so you want to play at that age," Wenger said. "It was a difficult decision, but on the other hand when a guy has given you that many years, you have to accept that if he is not sure to play. ... I believe that for them as well it must be difficult to make that step."

Arsenal badly need a win over West Brom to avoid losing more ground in the Premier League title race after a rocky start that included losses at Stoke and Liverpool. But their confidence was boosted by the 0-0 draw at Chelsea last weekend, with Aaron Ramsey in particular coming in for praise after that game.

Kieran Gibbs left Arsenal after 13 years at the club to join West Brom this summer.

Wenger called Ramsey's performance at Stamford Bridge "absolutely outstanding" and said the Wales international is ready to return to his best after a season that was interrupted by injuries and only included 13 league starts.

"He had a very strong game that was well balanced defensively and offensively. That's what you want, he had a very structured game against a very physical and talented midfield like Chelsea," Wenger said.

"Last year, in October we lost Ramsey and [Santi] Cazorla together. For us it was a handicap, and hopefully this season he can have many more games. The target for him will be to have 30 [league] games."

If Ramsey can stay fit, Wenger is confident he has all the tools -- and experience -- needed to be one of the top midfielders in the league.

"It's all there. He has more maturity, he has improved technically, he is more conscious of the importance of technical qualities, his game is clean and he has a huge physical power. He has a huge engine," Wenger said.

"You know your job in midfield at 25. It's as simple as that. You take on a new dimension, because you know where to be at the right moment, to anticipate. When you play in midfield, you have to win a lot of balls when the ball is in the neutral zone.

"That means if I play against you, it's not your ball and not my ball. But if I understand quicker than you, I have many chances to win the ball when it's in-between you and me. And it takes some time to always be in front on those kinds of balls. That's what I mean with experience plays a big part."

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

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