Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Goodbye Gael Clichy

The left back has left Arsenal, joining Man City for 7 million.

Because he only had a year remaining on his contract, and because most observers now routinely question both his defensive and attacking prowess, that's decent money.

Whether it's a good deal overall depends on a couple of other factors.

If Wenger is not going to sign a direct replacement, but rather depend on Kieran Gibbs, it's worrying. Gibbs has looked a good player in spells but those spells have come sporadically. He's had more injuries than impressive performances.

We also know that Thomas Vermaelen can play at full back as well as in the centre, and that Arsenal are chasing a centre back, so perhaps a positional shift could be on the cards for the Belgian. That would be a pity considering his impressive first season, but he would surely provide more solidity on the left of Arsenal's defence than Clichy ever did.

Of course, after his almost season-long absence through 10/11, there is uncertainty now over Vermaelen's fitness aswell.

It would not say much for Arsenal's immediate ambitions if Wenger does not spend on another left back. If he wanted Clichy to stay, then he did not want Gibbs to take over. Allowing a young understudy a first team chance is what Wenger usually does though, so I won't hold my breath for a new signing in this area.

Clichy's Arsenal career has had, at least in the last four years or so, a gradually declining trajectory. When Arsenal had experienced players, Clichy slotted in and although a raw talent, looked like he could develop into a fantastic player.

He has roaring pace and endless stamina, but the mental side of the game has always presented problems for him. His most common defensive contribution of note was to win the ball with interceptions high up the pitch and set up counter attacks. But he was often led a merry dance by tricky wingers, his positional sense is shown up regularly, and as the more experienced pros flooded out of Arsenal, more and more mistakes crept into Clichy's game.

Many now see him as a liability. And the attacking threat suggested by his pace was never really much of a threat, because his final ball is horrendous. He has hardly produced ten decent crosses in his eight years at the club.

And he, more so than William Gallas, proved the catalyst for Arsenal's 2008 implosion. Gallas's meltdown was a response to Clichy's utter stupidity.

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