Silvestre or Gibbs to Replace Clichy?
Gael Clichy will be out of action for three weeks. He will miss the league games against Wigan Athletic, Liverpool and Middlesbrough, the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and the Champions League return leg against Villarreal and the first leg of the Champions League semi final (if we qualify).
Wenger’s dilemma is who he picks to deputise for Clichy, who though has been solid for most of the season, has not had a great season and has been caught out of position too often.
Wenger can go for experience in Mikael Silvestre, who spent most of his Manchester United career at left-back. When Silvestre joined he hoped he would play as a centre-back. Silvestre will give us experience at left-back that is for sure, but what else would he offer. His performances for Arsenal have not been the best; they have coincided with games that we have conceded more goals and lost more games.
Whilst you cannot place the entire fault at one player, if that player is inexorably weak, then the buck must stop with that person. A defence needs all four of its members to perform, there can be no passengers and for me Silvestre is a passenger.
He will offer very little going forward and will be torn to pieces at the back. It will not help him with Arshavin playing in front of him. The Russian rarely tracks back, leaving an extra burden on the full-back.
Arsene’s only other option is rookie left-back Kieran Gibbs. Gibbs has played in the Carling Cup and all the FA Cup ties this season and has not looked out of place. The opposition were Championship sides plus Wigan and Hull. Gibbs is a tenacious defender, good in the air and because he was formerly a winger, he has speed and is good at crossing the ball, something neither Clichy nor Sagna have mastered this season.
I would not be fearful of Gibbs playing on Saturday against Wigan nor on Wednesday against Villarreal. I believe he will cope admirably against both teams. There will no onus on us pushing forward in either game; these games can be used by Arsene to see how he copes under intense pressure. He can than decide whether to play him against Chelsea in the FA Cup and Liverpool in the league.
I believe that Wenger will plump for the experience of Silvestre over the youth of Gibbs. I have not been a Silvestre fan from the time he joined us and have seen nothing in his performances to change my mind, all I hope is that if he does get the nod over Gibbs, our fortune with him in the team changes.