Arsenal Transfer Official: Analysing the Best Replacements for Gael Clichy
Arsenal has completed their first summer transfer, which unfortunately was not the transaction Gunners' fans were quite hoping for. Instead of the arrival of a quality centre half or a tenacious sharp shooter, Arsene manager Arsene Wenger confirmed the departure of left back Gael Clichy to Manchester City for £7 million.
The Frenchman boasted an uncertain future, as Clichy was entering the final year of his Arsenal contract and refused to extend the deal. The 25-year-old, who was the longest serving Arsenal player in Wenger's squad, cited the lack of silverware success materializing at the Emirates and an increased wage as the main reasons for his departure.
Considered one of the best left backs in the English Premier League, Clichy had endured a lapse in calibre and performance levels in recent years but was still regarded highly by Wenger. The Arsenal manager has thanked Clichy for eight years of "terrific service."
But now the main question on Arsenal fans' lips is, just who will replace the 264-game veteran?
Wenger is enjoying an increased transfer budget as the need for success intensifies at the Emirates, and the Frenchman has the ability to target quality reinforcements. However, just who is the best replacement for Gael Clichy is a tough question. Here, Bleacher Report aims to analyse just who Wenger should target, internally and externally.
Wenger has an impressive eye for left backs, establishing the likes of Ashley Cole and of course Gael Clichy since joining the Gunners in 1996. Will this trend continue?
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Clichy highlighted that there was a general lack of depth at the Gunners which was a catalyst in their demise and inability to secure silverware. However, this does not necessarily appear to be the case as certain youngsters develop whilst others merely require an opportunity to flourish.
Wenger does not necessarily have to spend to find the ideal replacement for Gael Clichy, as a number of current squad players are showing signs that potentially they have the calibre and ability to replace the veteran Frenchman. Although fans may prefer to see a new, quality arrival, there is no denying there are options internally.
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Here is the most obvious replacement for Gael Clichy. The long standing deputy left back, youngster Kieran Gibbs, has evoked the potential to become a world class left back. However Wenger's inability to grant the Englishman consistent playing time alongside persistent injuries have curtailed the 21-year-old's development in recent years.
Though he has been restricted to 20 appearances during the recent seasons and a mere seven prior, primarily due to injuries, Gibbs has shown in small doses that their is promise. Rewarded with a debut in the English national team at the commencement of the 2010/2011 season, Wenger has high faith in the former Wimbledon youth.
However, when thrust into the first team in the dying stages of the recent season, the Englishman was somewhat disappointing as Clichy endured injuries woes. Gibbs appeared to lack confidence and consistent game time but still managed to evoke minor praise. But World Football has still yet to see what the Englishman is capable of with consistent playing time and increased responsibility as the first choice left back.
In the latter stages of Gibbs' first full season at the Gunners in 2008/2009, which was arguably the youngster's best, Clichy sustained a season-ending injury. Nonetheless, in a short cameo, the England international thrived.
However, fans are sceptical and tentative as to whether Kieran Gibbs is ready to become the Arsenal first choice left back.
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The Frenchman is another promising prospect who is yet to fulfill his obvious potential but has conveyed adequate ability to thrive at left back. The 21-year-old spent the entire 2010/2011 campaign on loan at Italian giants Juventus but unfortunately endured injuries which restricted the former Auxerre full back to twelve appearances.
None the less, Traore was predominantly strong when called upon, and Wenger is a noted admirer of his ability. A thriving attacker who possesses impressive pace and strength, the France U-21 star has experienced English Premier League football sufficiently after a stellar loan spell in 2008/2009 in which Traore amassed 19 appearances and a goal.
Set to have a definining preseason with the Arsenal first team, the Frenchman could emerge as a valid option to become the first choice left back. Although likely to command the deputy role, entrusted with the opportunity to perform, one cannot rule out Armand Traore's promise, and many predict 2011/2012 could become the full back's season.
Arsenal fans are still awaiting the opportunity to properly view Pedro Botelho. The Brazilian was acquired by Wenger in 2007 from Brazilian outfit Figueirense but is yet to play a single minute for the North London giants.
An inability to secure a work permit has ensured Botelho has spent the last three seasons on loan with Spanish Segunda sides UD Salamanca, Celta Vigo and FC Cartagena. The Brazil U-21 star has performed strongly in each spell, amassing over 100 appearances since 2007.
A tough, imposing defender who is equally powerful on the wing, the 21-year-old has shown he is a talented prospect. Wenger has granted Bolteho to seek out other clubs with a number of La Liga sides greatly interested but the Brazilian is still expected to partake in Arsenal's preseason, which commences shortly.
With Clichy's departure, Wenger may find a solution in Botelho, who possesses the strength and speed to thrive in the English Premier League.
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Although primarily a central defender, Arsenal's defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen could be shifted to left back thanks to Gael Clichy's transfer to Manchester City. The Belgian is not unfamiliar to the left back role due to his favoured left-sided defensive role and has been utilized on numerous occasions during his career.
Since joining the Gunners in 2009 for £10 million from Dutch giants Ajax, Vermaelen has thrived in the central defence. A tough, tenacious and potent defender, the Belgium international was named in the PFA Team of the Year in his debut season but a persistent Achilles injury restricted Vermaelen to a mere five matches in 2010/2011.
The 25-year-old is not the most imposing defender but still manages to thrive aerially against bigger forwards. However, thanks to his impressive speed and composure, Vermaelen emerges as a prime left back prospect.
With Arsene Wenger targeting a new centre half and with Gary Cahill and Christopher Samba in his sights, the Frenchman could have a packed central defensive line with Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny, Sebastien Squillaci, Kyle Bartley and Ignasi Miguel.
Djourou and Koscielny enjoyed stellar seasons in 2010/2011 and are expected to improve immensely in 2011/2012. The duo are a strong partnership and although they possessed some frailty last season, they should be able to gain with one another. With the expected new presence, one can envision Vermaelen moving and thriving at left back.
It would reduce the Arsenal attack on the left, but it would certainly cure the lingering defensive woes and provide a more dynamic defensive line that can cope physically and aerially.
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Arsene Wenger has a budget to spend, and with the added £7 million from Clichy's transfer, the Frenchman has the ability to target quality left back presences. However, it is a delicate procedure with the presences of Kieran Gibbs and the need for funds to target high-calibre midfielders and forwards.
None the less Clichy's departure is a great opportunity for Wenger to find a player who can eradicate the ongoing defensive woes and provide an incisive, clinical attacking option. But just who should Wenger target?
A number of players have already been linked with the Gunners, but nothing has yet properly materialized. Can the Arsenal manager put his increased funds and natural eye for left backs to good use as the Gunners prepare to erode their ongoing trophy drought in 2011/2012?
Jose Enrique, Newcastle United
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The Spaniard has become heavily linked with the Gunners and many expect Wenger to complete an £8 million signing of Enrique as the replacement for Gael Clichy. The 25-year-old enjoyed a stellar season with Newcastle United as they maintained their presence in English football's top division.
Amassing 36 appearances for the Magpies, Enrique was one of the most consistent and reliable defensive presences in the EPL and has become a chased target this summer. Similar to Clichy, Enrique is entering the final year of his Newcastle contract but is refusing to re-sign to Saint James' Park.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is said to have accepted the inevitable of the Spaniard's departure with £8 million required to secure Enrique's service. A quick and tenacious former Villarreal left back who possesses over 90 matches in the Premier League, Enrique is far from expensive for Wenger and has proven his ability in World Football's toughest league.
Aly Cissokho, Olympique Lyon
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Arsene Wenger is a noted admirer of the Lyon full back, and due to his tendency to target French players or Ligue 1 stars, Cissokho has emerged as the Arsenal manager's ideal replacement for Gael Clichy. The former FC Porto full back has become one of Ligue 1's best left backs since arriving at French giants Lyon in 2009.
The 23-year-old is a tireless worker who is blessed with devastating speed and power alongside a vicious cross. Long touted with a move the Premier League, many expected Arsenal to target the French international due to Cissokho's Arsenal-like displays.
With French players often thriving at the Emirates, one would not be surprised to see Cissokho join. Furthermore, due to his young age, there is still much development ahead for the Frenchman, which could be greatly enhanced under Wenger.
However, with no Premier League experience, it could become a gamble for Wenger and it is believed Cissokho will command up to £11 million. This might ensure that Wenger turns to Enrique due to his EPL experience and cheaper cost.
None the less Aly Cissokho is a talented left back who would not dishearten Arsenal fans if he was signed by Arsene Wenger.
Emilio Izaguirre, Celtic
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After enjoying seven seasons in the Honduras top division football league, Emilio Izaguirre had a whirlwind first season in European football. The 25-year-old arrived at Scottish giants Celtic from C.D. Motagua as a somewhat unknown left back but after a stellar campaign, the Honduran has become one of the most chased defenders in World Football.
Izaguirre amassed 42 appearances and concluded the season as the SPFA Players' Player of the Year, Clydesdale Bank SPL Player of the Year, Celtics Players' Player of the Year and Scottish Football Writers Player of the Year.
A consistent, strong left back, Manchester United and Liverpool are both immensely interested in the Honduran international but Arsenal can now emerge as favourites with the departure of Clichy. Despite possessing no Premier League experience, many believe Izaguirre has the calibre to thrive in England and due to his ability to deal with physicality and pace combined, believe the Honduran can emulate Ashley Cole.
Rumoured to cost around £8-10 million, Emilio Izaguirre could emerge as the best replacement for Gael Clichy.
Maynor Figueroa, Wigan Atheltic
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Maynor Figueroa has emerged as one of the most consistent and productive left backs in the English Premier League after establishing himself as a permanent presence in the Latics' starting side for over three seasons. The 28-year-old is an admired fullback who is rumoured to be departing Wigan Athletic this summer, commanding attention from Liverpool and Sunderland.
With over 75 EPL games for Wigan and 78 appearances for Honduras, Figueroa is an experienced, quality left back whose attacking prowess and crossing ability would provide Arsenal will a more dynamic attack. Furthermore, the Honduran international has thwarted some of the best attackers in World Football.
Figueroa's experience is a huge plus for Arsene Wenger, and his rumoured cost of about £10 million strengthens the 28-year-old's appeal.
Leighton Baines, Everton
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Many view Everton's Leighton Baines as the best left back in the English Premier League, and Arsenal fans' doubts would be put at immense ease should the Englishman be secured by Arsene Wenger. Manchester City were rumoured as the new destination of choice for Baines with speculation that a £25 million bid was being prepared. However, with City acquiring Clichy, Arsenal boast an opportunity to pounce.
The 26-year-old enjoyed a stellar 2010/2011 in which the Englishman was named Everton's Player of the Year with 44 appearances and seven goals. Tough, composed and versatile, Baines is an exceptional defender who boasts over 190 appearances in the English Premier League.
Everton are eager to maintain their star left back but are known to be in financial disarray. In effect, they may be forced to offload Baines for up to £15 million. Although expensive, the former Wigan Atheltic full back is seen as the best possible replacement for Gael Clichy.
Baines is a renowned defender but also a dynamic attacker who possesses one of the best crosses in the English Premier League, and is also a genuine free kick and penalty converter. Arsene Wenger is eager to reassure Arsenal fans that the Gunners are still a genuine title threat, and this is certainly one way to achieve that.
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Just what will Arsene Wenger do to replace Gael Clichy?
The Frenchman has the choice to grant a superb opportunity to youngster Kieran Gibbs, or even shift defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen to left back in order to achieve a more physical defensive approach. However, with his evident funds, should Wenger target the likes of Jose Enrique and Emilio Izaquirre or will the Frenchman attempt to secure the expensive Leighton Baines?
Only time will tell.