One bold opinion that I made in the pub with my friends roughly 18 months ago has severely come back to bite me on the derriere in recent weeks – I made the assertion that Gael Clichy was the best left back in the world.
Whilst this sounds quite frankly bonkers now, and was done in part to wind up my myopic viewed Man Utd friends, I think it contained a significant measure of validity. At the time Ashley Cole’s form for Chelsea was patchy and for all of Patrice Evra’s merits going forward I have never been entirely convinced of his defensive awareness with Aaron Lennon in particular giving the Frenchman the run around almost every time they meet now. At this time Clichy was pushing hard for a place in the France side over the cumbersome Eric Abidal and the aforementioned Evra and was comfortably the top flight’s best performing left back after being named in the PFA Team of the Year for the 2007/8 season.
He seemed at ease with the ball at feet, was decent in the air, had pace and was solid at the back whilst a threat going forward, all in all the perfect modern day full back. Flash forward 18 months and Clichy looks a shadow of his former self.
Exposed for pace by Nani against Man Utd in their 3-1 win at the Emirates, poor against Chelsea a few days later and consistently beaten by Porto winger Varela last night, his terrible form is a real cause for concern. If Kieran Gibbs were fit and Mikael Silvestre not useless it’s debatable whether Clichy would even find himself in the Arsenal starting eleven these days.
Injuries have played their part too and it has to be said that some players do take time to find their feet again after a spell on the sidelines. A series of minor niggling injuries and the form of youngster Gibbs in the past have seen him dip in and out of the starting eleven but at the moment he’s a liability and looks to be being targeted by rival managers as a weak link in an otherwise decent Arsenal back four.
It remains a mystery why a player of such potential can regress to such an extent where his selection becomes a problem, he looks undercooked and unfit and unless Wenger address the situation soon I wouldn’t bet against a left back being top of his shopping list come summer time.
What are everyone else’s thoughts on the decline on a once dependable left-back – is it just a blip?
Written By James McManus