Monday, June 27, 2011

Gael Forces Wenger Dilemma

By Walid Hai

Reports surfacing yesterday are suggesting that Gael Clichy may be ready to enter contract negotiations with Arsenal.

At the end of the season in May, sources close to the club had confirmed that Wenger was ready to let the full back leave, with Roma looking the likeliest destination for the French international. However, Sky Sports have now claimed the Arsenal manager is keen to hold on to the 25 year old defender, the last remaining member of the Invincibles team.

Wenger reportedly said, “We have started talks with Gael and want him to stay".

Given that the story is true, it is a rather interesting turnaround in Wenger’s decision as Clichy’s inconsistency has come under scrutiny several times since he conceded the last minute penalty at the game against Birmingham City at St. Andrews in 2008.

The Frenchman has often been able to recover catastrophic errors due to his pace and high fitness levels. His lung bursting dribbles into opposition territories and interceptions during key moments has provided some difficult attacks for opposition teams to deal with.

The problem however has always been his ability to win 1-on-1 duels. The likes of Lennon and Young have tried and failed to outpace Clichy in a bid to get behind the Arsenal defence. However, there are the likes of Nani who also previously attempted to beat the full back with and later adopted a more effective solution to use an over-lapping full back and double up on that flank leaving the left back to make some poor decisions.

Wenger may have identified Clichy’s weakness, but with few options available, perhaps keeping hold of the full back may be the best solution. Gibbs is still a long way from gaining consistency and proving his fitness, while Armand Traore is likely to look for a permanent move away from North London in search of regular football.

In terms of the transfer market, there is few options available. Everton’s Leighton Baines has been mentioned several times. While Baines has had a good season, it is unlikely Wenger will want to pay the premium for the English international with the centre backs being top priority this summer.

And Clichy has several times expressed his desire to remain with the club. He has often mentioned feeling “home-sick” every time he has had to stay away from London for more than 2 weeks.
The news will no doubt leave Liverpool fans slightly upset as the Merseyside club desperately seeking a left back. Aurelio’s injury concerns coupled together with Paul Konchesky’s torrid performances meant Liverpool may have been in with a chance of securing Clichy’s signature with the Frenchman’s current contract expiring next summer.

With few doors open to Wenger in terms of a replacement, the Arsenal manager may just opt to stick with his current left back for the coming season.

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