And so, the Invincibles are completely and utterly gone.
Gael Clichy has left the club after eight years of service and joined Manchester City. If you wish to watch his first interview at his new club, you can have a look at their website. We can only speculate as to the fee, but most suggest it’s in the region of £7 million, and for a player of his quality, that really is a steal. He may have had his bad moments, but without doubt, he is a top quality player. He makes mistakes, but all players do. He got barely any support in defence – Arshavin and Nasri were never interested in defending, and while Alex Song gave Bacary Sagna added protection on the right, Jack Wilshere was a little less defensively disciplined, leaving Clichy exposed at times.
I’ll miss him, he was a top servant, and he never gave up. What I’ll remember most about him are his lung-busting runs down the left, and the superb interceptions when he nipped in past the opposition player to steal the player. I remember against Barcelona, in the first leg of the recent tie, Clichy was facing up to Pedro, and somebody in front of me yelled “Don’t dive in!”, but Clichy did, and still won the ball. It was also him that set up van Persie’s goal to put us on our way to the victory in that leg.
Many still blame Clichy for our collapse against Birmingham in 2007/08. The penalty was an absolutely perfect tackle, he toed the ball away from Parnaby (yes, I remember who it was, I still hold a grudge) and was nowhere near touching the player, yet he went down, and the referee pointed to the spot, for whatever reason. That was not Clichy’s fault – if the referee had not made the wrong decision, we would have been praising Clichy for making a crucial tackle.
It’s important to note that he’s only 25. He seemed to struggle mentally after the Birmingham game, and never fully recovered his form, although that may have been the formation change. He’s still nowhere near his peak, that will come in three years or so. I’m of the belief that he’ll thrive at City – they defend as a team, and maintain defensive discipline, unlike us. We could take a leaf out of their book in that respect.
He worked his socks off all over the pitch, covering every inch of grass. I for one, am sad to see him go, and I pray that we bring in a decent replacement. There must be someone Wenger could pluck from France or Italy like he did with Sagna? Matt Statto recently suggested Pablo Armero from Udinese, and I think we could do far worse than to have a look at him. I certainly don’t think Gibbs is the answer, not yet anyway – positionally he was awful last season, and cost us quite a bit with his lackadaisical play. Many times you’d find him in the left midfield position, having given the ball away, and struggling to get back. He’s far too indisciplined to be a starter for us yet.
Armand Traore and Pedro Botelho are certainly not the answer either – Traore was average at Juventus, nothing more, while Pedro Botelho is a Gareth Bale-type player; an adventurous left-sided player who can play in defence or midfield, but is far more suited to playing in midfield.
So goodbye, Gael Clichy. Some may not have appreciated you, but in years to come, I’m sure they’ll realise you were a pretty good player.
Oh, and score loads of own goals.
Today seems to be a day of rumours.
As well as a lot of talk about the future of Gael Clichy, among others, which I’ll cover later, there’s been some encouraging buzz about a potential academy link up with Belgian side Anderlecht. John Chapman began the talk on Twitter – not many know more about Belgian football than him. The only Anderlecht youngster I know much about is Romelu Lukaku. Similar to Didier Drogba in style, the 6ft3 17 year old has been linked with Chelsea and Real Madrid, as well as some others. He also has a younger brother, Jordan.
It looks unlikely that we’re in for Lukaku. Tribal Football links us with Lukaku jr and Dennis Praet, the former being a “powerful left back”, the latter being a “highly-rated central midfielder”. Some other news to stem from the Anderlecht link is the potential loan deal of Wellington Silva to the Belgian side. He’s struggled to make an impact at Levante, and I think a spell elsewhere would do him good. The Daily Mirror links him with said move here.
That article also links Bendtner, Clichy and Arshavin to moves elsewhere. I’d be surprised if Bendtner and Arshavin left, but I can’t see Clichy staying. It looks like we’ll look for something in the region of £5.5 million for him – he may have struggled in recent seasons but that fee is a lot less than he’s worth. Sadly his contract is running out, so that may be the best we get. He’s a likable guy, so despite his shortcomings, I’ll be sad to see him go if he does leave.
Returning to the subject of the academy, Young Guns has a few stories about the futures of trialists and our own youth players. Apparently we’re set to decide on whether Kevin Mbabu and Robert Mirosavic stay at the club after relatively successful trial periods or not. The same site also reports that promising youngster Roarie Deacon will follow George Brislen-Hall out of the Arsenal exit, and is on trial at Sunderland.
I’ve heard good things about Deacon – mainly from Young Guns – so it’s a little surprising that he’s being let go. What wouldn’t surprise me though, is if Jay Emmanuel-Thomas left. He’s not exactly set the world alight at Cardiff, and his attitude has been criticised. I suppose we’ll see in the summer.
Rounding off the Young Guns news, we have the news of another potential exit – this time it’s Oguzhan Ozyakup. Apparently his contract talks have broken down, with the Dutch youngster listing broken promises in terms of his future as the reason. Coincidentally, he’s been linked with Anderlecht. He’s been praised by a lot of academy enthustiasts, but I’m sure there’ll be someone ready to take his place.
Anyway, back to first team matters. There’s been a lot of back and forth between Arsenal and Stoke Rugby Club fans. I’ve not got involved, as it’s silly to attempt to reason with insane human beings such as them. However, I’ve read some comments that their fans have made, and they really are vile people.
Some have spoken about how they’re going to abuse Aaron Ramsey. Quite where he was in the wrong for having his leg almost snapped off I don’t know. Speaking of that tackle, there’s a terrific article on Futbol Intellect about tackles like those – it’s a great read. There’s also been accusations at Arsene Wenger just like in the song you often hear at Old Trafford – I don’t think I need to go into further detail. The hypocrisy is rife; forgetting the fact that Wenger is clearly innocent of such ridiculous accusations, he’s not the manager who showers with his own players. Cough – Pulis – cough.
It’s a shame that all of the pre-match talk has been about the rivalry between the clubs’ fans and the situation with Ramsey and Shawcross. I’m sure Sky will zoom in on their hands as they meet/miss before the game, which is a bit silly. It’s a football match, and the talk should focus on the football – even if only one team will be playing football on the day.
We’ve been linked once again with Phil Jagielka by the Mirror in the article I linked earlier. Most people who claim to be in-the-know have said that we were strongly interested in Jagielka last summer, and had a bid turned down. It seems like solid talk, and I’d be pleased if we were interested again. He’s a top player, severly underrated. How Lescott went for £22 million baffles me. In truth, Jagielka was the one making him look good.
His constant interceptions, ball-winning tackles and powerful headers help Everton win games and keep clean sheets. He’s a dynamic player and a leader from the back. I’d be thrilled if he was playing in the red and white of Arsenal next season, but if I was a betting man (who was allowed to bet) I’d put money on him staying at Everton. Still, I guess we’ll see.
That’s about all I’ve got for today, more tomorrow when hopefully we’ll get a good three points at Stoke.