Arsenal Transfer Prospects: Juan Manuel Vargas Replacement for Gael Clichy?

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Arsenal Transfer Prospects: Juan Manuel Vargas Replacement for Gael Clichy?
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Arsenal collapsed yet again and this time it was at Stoke City. While the humiliating defeat came as a surprise, the omission of Gael Clichy from the starting 11 was an even bigger surprise.

His omission might signify that Arsenal are planning for life without him. Speculations are rife that Clichy might leave this summer in search of silverware and a better pay day.

Clichy joined Arsenal from French club Cannes in 2003 and since then he has grown slowly but steadily into one of the best left-backs in world football. He does make occasional mistakes, but then again who doesn't?

Even though Clichy's concentration lapses have cost the club dearly on numerous occasions, nobody can question the Frenchman's commitment and loyalty. Clichy gives his 100 percent, if not more, when on the field and bleeds Arsenal. He's an Arsenal fan through and through. A very likable player under most circumstances.

The departure of Ashley Cole gave Clichy ample scope to express himself in the red and white of Arsenal. He made the maximum with the opportunities that came his way and went on to scale new heights during the 2007-09 period registering scintillating performances on a regular basis.

Indubitably 2007-08 was the best season of his career where he got recognition for his consistent performances with a spot in the PFA Team of the Year.

In Europe, I always remember Clichy's awe-inspiring performance—en route to a 2-0 Arsenal win—at the San Siro against AC Milan, which is easily one of his best performances during his stint so far at Arsenal.

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However, his performances dropped in 2009, has gradually declined further since then, and he now looks an inconsistent and error-prone player. Clichy might seem to have been around for a very long time but he's still only 25.

Clichy's advantage is his blistering pace and bundles of stamina. A very hard working and genuine player, Clichy is one of the very few loyal players that Arsenal have at present alongside Robin van Persie and Bacary Sagna.

Losing Clichy at this moment is not what is ideal for Arsenal. However, the latest developments hint at a possible exit in the near future. The negotiations over a new contract seem to have stalled and if Arsene Wenger fails to convince Clichy that his future lies with Arsenal then he may well have no option but to sell the speedy full-back rather than risk losing him for nothing next year.

Clichy certainly deserves a marked improvement on his current contract, but ensuring that might not be enough to convince him to stay.

With Arsenal's barren spell set to continue for at least another year, quite a few players are worried and are reassessing their situations. Clichy happens to be one of them and having spent eight seasons at the club, it might be time for Clichy to embark upon a new challenge.

Due to a noticeable dearth of quality full-backs, many top clubs are mulling over making a bid for Clichy including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool. With hardly a year left on his contract, Arsenal are not in pole position to dictate terms. They may well be forced to accept a bid in the region of £8-£10 million.

Some might quickly point out that Arsenal have a ready-made replacement in Kieran Gibbs, but I beg to differ.

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Gibbs may be talented but whenever he got games to prove himself he hasn't done exactly the same. The most recent instance is the game at Britannia Stadium.

Instead of engaging the opposite full-back, Gibbs runs in-field and passes the ball backwards or sideways and doesn't have an eye for a cross.

He gives an impression of a centre-back playing out of his position as a full-back. And defensively, he's quite average. The infamous slip against Manchester United sums up his defensive work so far in his short career. It's one game and harsh on the player to judge him on the basis of that. But a profound examination makes it clear that Gibbs takes one second too many to sniff out danger and the defending from set-pieces is awful.

Being young, there's always room for improvement. At the moment, he's not ready. Plus, his injury record makes it even more risky to put all the eggs in one basket.

Another promising youngster who could make the cut is Pedro Botelho. He has been playing admirably at FC Cartagena. Unfortunately, his fiery temperament has failed him so far in his attempts at getting a work permit.

However, there's every chance that he might get one this time around. He's a tall, strong player who's a very good crosser of the ball. He would certainly be up for a fight against all the thugs in the Premier League, but again he's an inexperienced player who needs game time in a top-flight league before jumping to conclusion.

If Clichy were to leave, I would like Arsenal to buy Fiorentina's Juan Manuel Vargas.

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A very talented player at the peak of his career, Vargas could offer Arsenal a whole new dimension on the left flank. He's not the best defensively, but going forward, very few left-footed players can match him head-to-head.

His mesmerising dribbling abilities, long-range shooting technique, and pin-point crossing accuracy make him an extremely dangerous player to play against. It's hard to find better crossers of the ball from a full-back position in European Football. Couple that with the 27-year-old's dead-ball expertise, you've got a wonderfully talented left-footed player on your side.

Considering Arsenal's style and system, that's the type of player the Gunners need on their flank.

What that repertoire means is he won't come cheap. Fiorentina signed him for €12million in 2008, and since then he has constantly been linked with a move to Real Madrid.

It would take at least €20million to persuade the Viola to sell their star player. The penny-pinching Wenger, in all likelihood, wouldn't spend that sort of cash on a full-back. However, Vargas' versatility makes him invaluable. He can play anywhere on the left flank, and knowing Arsenal's fragility on the left side, it wouldn't be a bad option to make a move for the talented Peruvian.

Who wouldn't want to see the Fiorentina ace at the Emirates?

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