Arsenal loses a stalwart, Gael Clichy
The first ever back five I witnessed as an Arsenal fan was the all-English affair that had goons like Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon and David Seaman. These men were as solid as ever and made their consistency count because they won many titles in their time at the club. Shortly after retirement, Nigel became a commentator, Martin became a scout, Seaman cut off his amazing ponytail and Tony put his hands in club management.
Arsene Wenger also had a second generation back five that had multinationals representing Africa and Europe. Mad Jens Lehmann was the custodian between the sticks, Lauren Etame-Mayer did his thing down the right. His wonderful own-goal against Manchester City cannot be forgotten though. Big Sol Campbell was a subject of controversy after switching to Arsenal despite playing for the old enemy. He left the club to Portsmouth on a bad note but did well to quell his demons and win the fans back in his second coming in the 2008/09 season. Kolo Abib Toure started his Arsenal career as a right back but Wenger’s faith in him paid dividends as Kolo became one of the fastest and most consistent defenders in the Premier League.
My main focus will go to the left back position occupied by Cashley Cuntly Cole. The Arsenal Academy product was sent on loan to Crystal Palace at the start of his Arsenal career but he came of age in the 2003/04 season when Arsenal made history by being the first time to scale through an entire season without defeat. Cuntly Cole had reserves of pace and stamina and he also formed a telepathic understanding with Robert Pires.
While Cole was strutting his stuff on the left flank, Wenger went to AS Cannes in 2003 to sign a relatively young left back for a meager fee of £250,000. On the 28th of October, 2003, the youngster made his Arsenal debut in a league Cup encounter against Rotherham United. His league debut came a month later in the 3-0 victory against Birmingham City. In his first season at Arsenal, he won his first league title at the milk age of 18.
He was Cole’s deputy in his second season at Arsenal but he played in the FA Cup and the Carling Spoon. He played 15 league games for Arsenal but his season was cut short by a foot injury he sustained in April 2005. His 2005/06 season wasn’t too glittering because he and Cole suffered similar foot injuries that sidelined them for eons. This made Wenger deploy Mathieu Flamini as a stand-in left back.
Following Cole’s departure in 2006, the left back position was his to keep. He had a foot surgery that summer so he missed the first three months of the campaign. The 2006/07 season was his most creative season because he laid on seven assists for his teammates. He was ever-present in the 2007/08 season and he played all 38 league games for Arsenal. He also amassed a total of 49 games in all competitions. His performances that campaign earned him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year along with fellow teammates Bacary Sagna, Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Greedybayor. In the summer of 2008, he signed a new contract extension till 2012. Unfortunately, that was his last.
He broke his Arsenal duck in the 2-1 defeat to Stoke in November 2008. He was part of the Arsenal squad that had an impregnable home form in the Champions League that saw Wenger’s team keep clean sheets against Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, Dynamo Kiev, AS Roma and Villarreal. He suffered a back stress fracture that made him miss the semifinal encounter against Manchester United.
In his final two seasons at Arsenal, he slightly became the shadow of the player that was heralded as the best left back of the league years ago. He had on and off games and made some glaring match-costing errors that raised a few eyebrows regarding his future at the club. On the international scene, he has represented France 10 times and was included in the 23-man squad that was a major disgrace in the World Cup at South Africa. He spent a great chunk of the tourney at the bench but he made his maiden World Cup appearance in the 2-1 defeat to the hosts South Africa.
In his time at Arsenal, he won three trophies, the Premier League (2004), the Community Shield (2004) and the FA Cup (2005). As a player, he has blistering pace, the stamina of a bison, extremely high work rate, good anticipation skills, a resilient attitude and an agile nature but he had some noteworthy flaws which include poor crossing, poor positioning and a Self Destruct chip.
When Arsenal went through their sixth season without a trophy, Gael Clichy had one more year in his contract so he had the option of extending his stay at the club or seeking greener pastures elsewhere. He chose the latter and his account is going to be very green because he has successfully completed a £7m move to Manchester City..
Clichy had this to say,
“I have had eight fantastic years at Arsenal and made many friends. I have so many great memories from my time at Highbury and Emirates Stadium. I would like to say thank you to everyone at Arsenal for all of their support and friendship. I also want to send a big thank you to all the Arsenal supporters, who have always been so good to me.”
Sayonara Gael Clichy.
I’ll miss those surges of energy down the left, your commitment and your burning desires to win trophies. I hope you’ll remember that your new club and your previous employers challenge for the same trophies but time will tell who will cross the finish line first.
Thanks for your amazing years of service.
The voting for the award of Nigeria’s best Sports blog ends on the 9th of July so I’ll be honored if you drop by and vote for Gooner Daily in the Sports category section.
The Tweet of the day goes to Omar Almasri.
@OAlmasri: “Please would anyone like to be an editor for my site? Please either tweet or DM me if you are.
Omar’s site is a wonderful website that offers a lot. He writes about Arsenal and other matters of the heart.
You can follow him on Twitter @OAlmasri. He’ll take it from there.
Now that Clichy is gone, Wenger has three possible options,
To buy Leighton Baines or Jose Enrique as a direct replacement
To promote Kieran Gibbs to the number one left back position or
To deploy Thomas Vermaelen as a left back, then acquire the services of Gary Cahill and Christopher Samba.
I’m with the third option though, a back five of Szczesny, Vermaelen, Cahill, Samba and Sagna would be a solid foundation Arsenal can bank upon.
The combined attribute of such a back five are reflexes, positioning, guile, iron-will, aerial ability, aggression, bravery, crosses and consistency.
This are the attributes needed to break a trophy duck.
I’m presently en route to Benin to start my NYSC camp orientation exercise and I’ll be there for three weeks.