A Look At Gael Clichy

This summer, Arsene Wenger brought in Marouane Chamakh, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci.  Many believed that Wenger had, in these 3 purchases, addressed most of the problems with the team.  Chamakh has been excellent so far and on Saturday the two new French defenders performed admirably under intense pressure from Sunderland throughout.  Considering this was Koscielny’s third game and only Squillaci’s 2nd in the Premier League, they showed much promise.
However, is it Arsenal’s longest serving first teamer that is letting the side down?  You only have to look at Sunderland’s equaliser on Saturday to realise why I am going to look at Gael Clichy.  I have read many comments that level criticism at Clichy, some interesting, some correct and some simply untrue, but there are a few that I want to address.
First of all, I heard someone say that Clichy has been at the club for 7 years now, yet he has barely improved during his time at the club.  This is unfair; yet over the past few seasons, this point may not be far off the mark.  I remember that when Ashley Cole left the club back in 2007, most fans were not worried because we had a ready made replacement in Clichy.  The Frenchman went on to prove that he could step into the shoes of Cashley and became one of the best left backs in the Premiership, if not the World.  The problem I have, and the worry I have, is that Clichy now is not at the same level as he was 2-3 years ago.
Clichy’s ability in one v one situations, his anticipation and decision making are what made him such a good full back.  He was voted as the best left back in the country after the 2007-08 season and many expected that he would get even better.  However, I fear he is regressing at an age where he is entering prime and should be improving.  He is far more vulnerable when isolated against opponents (Ashley Young last year) and his crossing and his awareness of the situation around him are poor.  On Saturday, as the rest of the defence pushed up after what should have been the final clearance of the match, Clichy dropped back in, allowing 3 Sunderland players to remain onside and eventually to score.  A simple lack of concentration cost us dearly and I fear this has been brewing recently with Clichy. I hoped last season would be a one off due to his injury problems but I am beginning to worry if last season was a sign of where Clichy is at, at the moment.
3 years ago at Birmingham, a mistake from Clichy, again a lack of concentration cost us dearly.  I just hope this draw doesn’t come back to haunt us yet again!
Lots of fans feel it is a time for Wenger to give Gibbs his chance.  I heard another fan say that the situation is similar to that of Cole and Clichy.  The time came where Clichy was ready to take over from Cole and it made the departure of Cole much easier to take.  This fan believes it is now Gibbs’ turn to take over from Clichy.  Gibbs is younger than Clichy was at the time, but then again Clichy had not earned a full-international cap.  Capello clearly rates Gibbs highly and his calmness and assurance at international level was very pleasing to see.  Gibbs’ final ball is miles ahead of Clichy’s in my opinion and his game is improving all the time.  My worry is that he is still a bit naïve in one v one situations and may be caught out when put under pressure.  However, I have seen enough to believe Gibbs is not far behind Clichy.  It is definitely a debate worth having…
The emergence of Gibbs may spur Clichy on to improve and re-capture his best form, at least I hope it does.  Wenger has shown that he is not scared to throw Gibbs into the side and we will see a lot of what Gibbs is made of at the Lane tonight.  If he puts in a good performance against either Lennon or Dos Santos, depending on how Spurs line up, there is no reason to suggest he shouldn’t get a chance to cement his place in the first team.
I personally know some fans who believe it may have been the right time to sell Clichy during the summer.  Sometimes players need a change having spent a long time at the club but I feel this would be unwise.  Clichy is one of the few members of the squad who knows what it is like to win trophies.  This is invaluable to our squad right now.  From his interviews Clichy seems intent on winning something this season, but wanting it the most doesn’t always triumph.  Performances on the pitch are what will win you trophies and unfortunately Clichy needs to improve his game right now if he wants to achieve something this season.
Last season Sagna had a very hard time but this season has come back stronger and been one of our best performers.  I hope Clichy can do this but it seems he is not working on his weaknesses as much as Sagna must have done.  Going forward Sagna seemed to add nothing last season, floating in useless cross after useless cross but this time around he is dangerous going forward.  Clichy on the other hand, well I beg that he doesn’t cross the ball these days!

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