So, the first ‘big’ Arsenal transfer deal of the summer took place yesterday and to nobody’s surprise it was a player leaving, rather than one coming in.
Gael Clichy was sold to Manchester City for a fee believed to be around £7m. Not bad for a player in the final year of his contract and while many will paint the picture as Clichy being the first of a number of ‘want-away’ stars to depart, the truth is Arsenal were willing sellers.
Perhaps not as willing to Man City as other clubs but then we’ve done them sold them players before. Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor a couple of summer ago. At the time Clichy was slightly mocking, suggesting it was money that was the primary concern of any player that turned up at Middle Eastlands, but while there’s still an element of that there’s no doubt City are a competitive force and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
As I said though, Arsenal aren’t losing a player they desperately want to keep. Last summer Clichy was on the brink of a deal to take him to Real Madrid but for various reasons it didn’t go through. When he broke off contract talks earlier this year there was no great talk of disaster. In fact, there was a general feeling it might be the best thing for both parties.
I like Gael, he always seemed like a good bloke, tried hard, gave 100% in every game, but his game is flawed. There were lapses of concentration, positional difficulties, getting caught in possession due to his indecisiveness, and he developed a strange habit of freezing at vital moments. The unfortunate thing for him, and us, was that the opposition seemed to be able to capitalise nearly every time.
So while I think it’s always a bit sad to see a player leave who has given eight good years to the club, with no fuss and no hassle, I believe the left back position is one which we can improve on. Of course it remains to be seen how the manager decides to fill the position. He has Kieran Gibbs waiting in the wings, there’s talk of Thomas Vermaelen being moved there should two centre-halves arrive, and even Traore and Botelho have been mentioned.
For me, however, it’s a position which can only be improved by going out and buying a new left back. I don’t think Gibbs is ready and I think his injury problems are a real impediment to him being given the chance. That said, those of you with good memories will remember Clichy was similarly afflicted early in his Arsenal career and at one point came close to retirement with recurring foot problem. Still, I just don’t see Gibbs as the answer, nor moving Vermaelen. Traore and Bothelo? No thanks. We’re looking to improve, not simply replace.
For me the ideal candidate is Everton’s Leighton Baines but a lot of chatter suggests we’re looking strongly at Newcastle’s Jose Enrique. There might even be interest in left backs abroad, one Portuguese based player in particular, but if this summer is to signal a new direction for the club, one keen to avoid to the mistakes of the past, then we just cannot replace an established first team player with a young man who has only started 13 league games in his entire career.
Is Gibbs a better player than Clichy? Not for me, not yet anyway, so it’s imperative that the club invest what they got for Clichy (and the extra money they got from City this summer due to add-ons in the Toure/Adebayor deals) in a new left back. While the general feeling might be accepting of Clichy’s departure there’s also a measure of rapidly increasing frustration that the squad has not yet been strengthened this summer.
Pocketing £7m, which I’m sure will be paid in one go and not installments, and simply promoting Gibbs would only increase that frustration. The club are the ones with the power to lessen that. Not for the sake of it, not because that should be their motivation, but by going out there and doing the business that needs to be done. Arsenal need a new left back, let’s not sit around waiting for the perfect deal to fall into our laps, let’s just get it done.
One final thought re: Clichy. In a summer when a player in a similar position in terms of contract has all but scuttled his relationship with the fans, Clichy didn’t stir, didn’t make trouble, didn’t say we were the best team one moment and not good enough the next, and as such will leave the club with the best of wishes of most. I don’t exactly wish him luck at Man City, that’s just not how it works, but I certainly thank him for his time with us. 264 appearances, 2 goals, and now a fresh start. Cheers, Gael.
And speaking of that other players, Man City are still apparently interested in Nasri, and will have had an opportunity to speak to Darren Dein, currently part of Nasri’s negotiating team, as they tied up the Clichy deal. The Independent says Wenger’s stance has changed in terms of selling him to an English club but it would require a £25m bid. City could do that if they wanted, I doubt United can.
The Mirror says Arsene is still hopeful of getting Nasri to commit to a new deal and it was interesting to hear Martin Keown talk on BBC 5 Live last night about situations like this. He spoke about how every summer Vieira was linked with a move away, and when you’re not at the club, when you’re getting it in the ear from agents etc, it’s easy to go with the flow. Once you’re back at the club, and Arsene has had his way with you, so to speak, you knuckle down and get on with the job.
A case, perhaps, of realising the grass is green enough at Arsenal. The problem with Nasri is that his contract means we have a very weak hand and if he really wants out then it’s going to happen, either this summer, or next. And the idea of having to rely on a player who you can’t be 100% sure will make a tackle for fear of scuppering his Bosman is not exactly great. It remains a much more difficult situation for the boss than that of Cesc, in my opinion.
Also in The Mirror, reports of ‘crunch’ talks between Cesc (well, Cesc’s people) and Ivan Gazidis over his future. I’m really not sure why we’d be talking to them (our pal Mr Dein Jr again) rather than Barcelona but there you go. The story remains the same, until Barcelona come to Arsenal with an offer we won’t refuse then nothing is going to happen.
As for players coming in, Gary Cahill has long been linked, but it’s impossible not to sympathise with Owen Coyle as he speaks about the situation. It all sounds a bit familiar and the disruption it causes to player, club and fans is something we can understand all too well. If we’re interested, let’s just do it, for the good of all concerned.
As the window lumbers on it’s now down to the new owner, his chief executive and the manager of the club to show some leadership and that we’re serious about addressing our team for the campaign ahead. Ignore stories about us not being able to sign superstars, we never did. Dennis Bergkamp is the only ‘OMG’ signing Arsenal have made in the last 20 years. Good players have come but none with star quality like Dennis.
However, if Kroenke’s first summer is one in which he presides over the departures of Clichy, Nasri and Cesc then, without considerable and quality re-investment in the squad, he may find himself with a reputation that becomes very difficult to shake. There’s still plenty of time to do our business but one would hope that we become active, seriously active, in this transfer market sooner rather than later.