There has been a virtual frenzy of speculation in the media regarding the potential exit of almost every single one of Arsenal's first team this summer. Yesterday the club announced the departure of the first of possibly many first team players when Gael Clichy joined Manchester City for a fee believed to be in the region of £7 million. Clichy has been Arsenal's first choice left back since the departure of Ashley Cole to Chelsea in 2006, and he made over 250 appearances for the club.
Clichy was seen as the last remaining member of the 2003/4 invincible team although he wasn't a regular member of that team. During his five seasons as first choice left back his form reached a peak in his second season, but it has gradually declined since then in my opinion. His inability to clear the ball under pressure from opposition players has marred his game far too often in the last two seasons.
Some of those mistakes were high profile such as the one away to Birmingham City in 2008 which many cite as costing Arsenal a real shot at the league title that season. It was a very emotional game for Arsenal players and fans, as Eduardo had his leg shattered by Martin Taylor early on. With Arsenal trailing 1-0 Theo Walcott scored a brace to put them in charge as the game drew to a close.
Clichy was in possession in his own penalty area when he didn't seem to notice a Birmingham player coming to close him down. By the time he managed to attempt to clear the ball he only managed to catch the Birmingham player and give away a last minute penalty. The reaction of William Gallas and Arsenal's collapse in the league after that game are well documented, but on closer inspection the penalty should never have been given.
The incident seemed to affect Clichy and mistakes crept into his game gradually after that game. He's been a little bit unlucky as well, as his mistakes seem to get punished more often than those of some of the other Arsenal players. It's probably not a bad thing for either the player or the club for him to move this summer, and the club had no real choice but to sell him.
He had only one year left on his Arsenal contract and he was refusing to sign another one so the club had to sell him or face losing him on a free transfer next summer. His choice of Man City will be seen by many as a mercenary move on his part, as they have the money to pay higher wages than any other club. Only two years ago Clichy said players would only join City for money, but it seems he has changed his stance.
To be fair to him City did win the FA Cup last season, and they have qualified for the Champions League too. They will be seen as genuine contenders for the Premier League next season, but if he thinks Arsenal won't be then he might well be wrong. Arsenal have overcome the departure of far better players in the past, and he will not be too difficult to replace.
It's up to Arsene Wenger to find a replacement for Clichy who will improve the team, and maybe even offer something in the opposing half of the pitch. Clichy's attacking abilities were far from those expected at a top club like Arsenal, and a few of the rumoured replacements would offer a lot more in my opinion. It's vital that Arsenal buy a replacement for him, as Kieran Gibbs is still far too raw to be promoted to first choice.
Gibbs has not overly impressed me when he has played, and he is probably the most injury prone player at the club at the moment. With Arsenal's current crop of injury prone players that's a big tag to have hanging around his neck. I hope he goes on to become a star of the future, but he cannot be relied upon for next season.
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have bigger challenges ahead of them in trying to keep both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri at the club, and if they manage to do so the loss of Clichy will not be felt too much. I hope things go well for him on a personal level, but I can't say I wish him well at City. They are a real rival to Arsenal next season, and it would not be good for Arsenal to wish him well at a rival.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at that Clichy penalty incident from 2008.
See You Tomorrow.