Arsenal FC: Liverpool target Gael Clichy nears Emirates Exit

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2011

Arsenal FC: Liverpool target Gael Clichy nears Emirates Exit

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Gael Clichy of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on May 1, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    In the UK, the Guardian and Daily Mail newspapers are reporting that Liverpool FC have bid £5 million for Arsenal’s want away left back Gael Clichy.  Loathed to let a player with only 12 months on his contract leave for free, Arsenal could be forced to part ways with the French international.  Would his departure be such a bad thing?

    Clichy is Arsenal’s only current player with the experience of winning the Premiership.  He is also a highly durable athlete in a squad frequently ravaged by injuries.

    Still, the former Cannes player has suffered an alarming loss of form during the past three seasons.  Key defensive mistakes have characterised his play and his development has gone backwards.  His lack of productivity going forward is a source of increasing frustration.  The quality of his final ball shows no signs of improvement.

    Arsene Wenger would no doubt resent losing a player he plucked from obscurity and moulded into an international, for a paltry sum.  If Liverpool or another suitor manages to snare Clichy, here are five potential solutions to replace him.

Kieran Gibbs

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    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 02:  Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal runs with the ball during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 5th Round Replay match between between Arsenal and Leyton Orient at the Emirates Stadium on March 2, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Lau
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    This talented three lions international hopeful is just the kind of young, English prospect many Arsenal fans want to see more of at the Emirates. 

    A quick and skilled attacker, Kieran Gibbs would certainly offer more going forward.  He takes up more threatening positions in and around the box.  Gibbs seems to have movement better suited to Arsenal’s creative passing.

    A negative for Gibbs would be that he has often been guilty of the same costly lapses in concentration as Clichy.  The biggest worry concerning the under 21 starlet is his long injury record.  Having recently pulled out of the European Under 21 Championships with yet another ankle problem, Gibbs would carry a major risk as a starting first team choice.

Thomas Vermaelen

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Thomas Vermaelen (R) of Arsenal collides with Stewart Downing of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard
    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    A natural left footer with some experience playing across the back line, Vermaelen would make a competent left back.

    As a superior defender to any of the naturalised left back candidates, Vermaelen’s move would lend Arsenal increased defensive solidity.  Shifting the Belgian to full back would create room for a new central defender.  This would also allow Johan Djourou to maintain his place in the starting 11 and build on some of his promising displays from last season.

    Vermaelen is accomplished on the ball and would not hinder Arsenal’s reliance on the full backs to provide width.  Possessing a thunderous shot and a natural keenness for goal, he would make a valuable contributor in attack.

    Deploying Vermaelen as a full back would reduce the need for multiple defensive substitutes.  If injury struck in the middle, Vermaelen could simply slot back into central defense.  In this eventuality, a player comfortable with both feet such as Kieran Gibbs, could be the lone defender on the bench and cover all defensive contingencies.

    The danger with Vermaelen is that he may lack the genuine pace needed to track back from wide areas.

Yuri Zhirkov

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14:  Yuriy Zhirkov of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on November 14, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Yuri Zhirkov has struggled mightily during his time at Chelsea.  The Russian international is still capable of moments of brilliance and a change of clubs could be the key.  Joining Arsenal, Zhirkov would have the chance to link up with his international compatriot Andrey Arshavin.

    Familiar with the role of fullback or in a more advanced position, it is attacking flair that Zhirkov would offer most at left back.  A player of real goal scoring potential who has been utilised on the wing, Zhirkov is capable of electric pace and dazzling dribbling ability.  He would add an extra dimension to the counter attacking element of Arsenal’s game.

    Motivation and defensive discipline would be the two traits Zhirkov would need to demonstrate and maintain if he is still of a mind to make himself a Premier League success.  As these are two common criticisms of many in the current squad, adding Zhirkov remains and intriguing but risky possibility for Arsenal.

Mamadou Sakho

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    PARIS - MAY 01: Defender Mamadou Sakho of Paris Saint Germain football club is seen during the French Football Cup Final at Stade de France on May 1, 2010 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
    Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

    Regularly linked with a transfer to Ashburton Grove, Sakho offers many benefits as Arsenal’s left back of choice.

    Tall and with a powerful playing style, Sakho should find no trouble adjusting to the speed and ruggedness of England’s top flight.  Inserting Sakho at left back would provide desired height in another area of the defense.

    Sakho’s presence would allow Thomas Vermaelen to remain in the middle and perhaps be paired with another signing to improve Arsenal’s aerial defences.  Like Vermaelen Sakho’s versatility would also prove useful.  Experienced playing as both a central defender and defensive midfield anchor, Sakho would provide invaluable cover when injuries occur.

    A stumbling block in any possible move for the Paris based player would be the potential fee.  Sakho is rumoured to command an asking price in the region of €15-20 million.  This price range could be prohibitive to Arsene Wenger.

Maynor Figueora

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    STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 22:  Charles N'Zogbia  and Maynor Figueroa of Wigan  celebrate staying up during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Wigan Athletic at Britannia Stadium on May 22, 2011 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo
    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Maynor Figueroa is one of the most consistent performers for perennially relegation threatened Wigan Athletic.  The Honduran left back would bring plenty of Premiership experience.  Aged 28, he is an established pro and not another potential filled fledgling.

    Another advantage for Figueroa is that he played for a Coach in Roberto Martinez, who stresses similar football ideals to Arsene Wenger.  An athletic defender with the ability to score spectacular goals, Figueroa would be a smart choice for Arsenal.

    The only cause for concern would be Figueroa’s role in Wigan’s own defensive frailties.  While it would be unfair to blame a single player, Arsene Wenger may prefer a player from a team with a stronger defensive reputation.

    With Options available, now could be the perfect time for Arsenal to sell Gael Clichy.  Arsenal must avoid losing a first team player for nothing.  Dispensing with an under performing senior star would also send a new message of intent to both fans and players.