So Clichy has left and gone to Manchester City for £7M and apart from Arsenal fans nobody is crying over this departure.
When Gael first burst onto the scene we thought we found the perfect replacement for Ashley Cole, and whilst Clichy had speed to close players down, he offered little going forward. Look at the number of goals he scored in his Arsenal career, 1. Clichy failed to get into the penalty area unlike Cole who liked nothing better than to be in the area looking for a far post goal.
All the fuss this summer has been about Wenger getting Nasri to sign a new contract, there have been no press stories about Clichy being offered a new contract. There have been some reports that Clichy was not even offered a new contract.
Wenger has looked as the sleepy performances by Clichy, the number of goals given away by Clichy’s sloppy marking or the number of times he has given the ball away and has decided you can go.
At the club we have Kierran Gibbs, a more attacking player than Clichy will ever be, a great deliverer of the ball and a player who will look to score. Gibbs is as good a defender as Clichy is and will only get better. More importantly Gibbs is English and has come through the Arsenal ranks, so the club means more to him than it does for too many of our foreign mercenaries. Gibbs just needs to be injury free and by December we will not even remember Clichy.
The new regime under Florentino Perez will soon come knocking at the Emirates, but not for Fabregas, well not yet anyway. Real’s new manager has identified the left-back slot as the one position that needs to be strengthened and he has handed Perez two names, Evra and Clichy (now being reported by London Evening Standard 12 June 2009).
Manchester United are bracing themselves for €80 million bid for Ronaldo (Man Utd have accepted an £80million bid 11 June 2009), which is his buyout clause, so I doubt Ferguson will too willing to allow another player to the club that he so much despises (despite having sold them Beckham, van Nistelrooy and Heinze).
Perez will be calling Arsenal in the next four or five weeks, once he has completed most of his signings and will want to talk about Clichy. The price he will offer will be around £10 million, having spent so lavishly on other players. Arsenal, will no doubt, turn such an offer down. If Real came back with a bid of around £18 million, Wenger will start to consider the matter.
Clichy is a fast, competitive defender who Wenger has groomed over the last 5 years. However, Wenger will have been impressed by the progress made by Gibbs this season. He will have seen Gibbs cope admirably in defensive situations and he is a player who gives Arsenal more going forward that Clichy. He will also have at the back of his mind Traore who had a mixed a season at Portsmouth. Nobody knows if Arsene considers Traore as a left-back any more.
What will also play on Arsene’s mid is that Vermaelen can also play at left-back and that might be the role Arsene has in mind for the Belgium international.
What is for sure is that call will come from Real and a bid of around £18 million will be hard to resist.
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.