It’s the culmination of an era, a glittering array of superstar footballers, having played an absolutely scintillating brand of football, mesmerizing fans all over the world, have now all left Arsenal. It took exactly sixteen years for the process of assimilation, achieving the ‘Improbable’, followed by disintegration of the outstanding group of footballers.
Dennis Nicolaas Bergkamp, the first of The Invincibles, was signed in 1995, with all the others gathered and enhanced upon, eight years later, Arsenal achieved the unthinkable of finishing an entire season, without losing a game of football. From that season to this day, Arsenal slowly let go off their inimitable employees, compromising on quality for the betterment of the financial situation at the club, and finally exactly after eight years of that ‘perfect feat’, Gael Clichy, the last of the Invincibles, departs from the Institution of football under Le Professor.
Gael – Signs From AS Cannes
Back in 2003, the 18-year old Frenchman, who was plying his trade in AS Cannes, was identified by Arsene as a possible backup for Ashley Cole. After impressing in friendlies against Peterborough United FC and Barnet FC, Clichy joined the rest of his team-mates, which included six other Frenchmen, at the training camp in Austria. Arsene Wenger was suitably impressed with Gael, he was quoted as –
“Gaël’s performances this pre-season were very impressive, he has great pace and an attacking nature. He is still only 18 and will benefit greatly from the experience of his new team-mates.”
In place of an injured Ashley Cole, the Frenchman got his first break-through into the remarkable side in 2003. He meshed in seamlessly, as Arsenal continued with their unbeaten streak in that historical season. Clichy went on to start 11 times for Arsenal and thereby earning the Winners Medal at the end of the season. In the next season, Clichy started mostly FA Cup matches but failed to make it to the First XI ahead of the in-form Cole in the league. The season after that was a strange one for Clichy, as he got a golden opportunity to prove his mettle in the absence of an injured Cole, unfortunately he suffered a similar injury within a few weeks, thereby ruling him out for almost the rest of the season.
It was “Cashley” Cole’s departure that paved the way for Gael into the team and after an ankle surgery, he would start for the Gunners in October of 2006 as first-choice left back. It would be an average season for Gael and even Arsenal, as they would struggle in the league, finishing 21 points below the leader at the end of the season.
Season 2007-08 – Best Season At The Club
This season would turn out to be the best for the left back at the club, a form, which he won’t ever be able to replicate in the future! Flawless interceptions, darting runs, incredible defending and tremendous grit and determination defined his season, which Arsenal led for most of the time, but failed to land the killer-blow, as they capitulated under pressure in the “final third”. The Arsenal full backs, Clichy and Sagna, finished the season as part of the PFA Team of the Season 07-08′ which also included Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor.
The irony of it all lies in the little matter of a visit to St Andrews in a ‘dark’ evening in February, 2008. After a dreadful injury to Eduardo, pretty early in the game, Arsenal were visibly distressed and disturbed throughout the match. Though they managed to stay 2-1 ahead till the 90th minute, it was none other than Gael Clichy, who was having a fantastic season, was responsible for a penalty and thereby, an equalizer. To this day, many believe that particular evening was the turning point of Arsenal’s history. It would be extremely harsh on Clichy to be labeled as the ‘architect‘ of Arsenal’s late-season collapse, but sadly, destiny and football fans can really get cynical.
Lapse Of Concentration And Failure To Understand Offside Rule
Though Clichy has had three spirited years at the club after that brilliant season, he has been quite average by his standards. The bar he had raised in that season was so high that it came back and haunted him for the rest of his years at Arsenal Football Club.
There cannot be any doubt in the commitment of the player to the club, but certain moments of madness had cost the team crucial points. These include ridiculous lapse of concentration, as well as failure to set up the offside trap. There have been times when the Arsenal full back would be seen lying on his back, as his opponent would beat him and sprint towards the Arsenal goal much to dismay of fans and players. At other times, Clichy would completely miss out on the line set by his three fellow defenders for the offside trap, thereby allowing the opponent forward to stay onside. These unfortunate moments are the ones people would mostly remember, though, Gael has always been a consistent performer, throughout his Arsenal career.
Falling Off The Throne – Life After Clichy
It has been a strange end to Clichy’s stint at Arsenal, from the best defender in the league in 2007-08 to almost a liability at certain occasions in 2009-10-11. His mistakes have been so costly that a lot of fans wanted to see him leave the club, of course with a suitable replacement arriving. His under-study Kieran Gibbs is a better crosser of the ball, equally adept at attacking but is still very ‘raw’ as far as the defensive side of things is concerned. Arsene Wenger needs to find a better solution than the young Englishman to replace the highly experienced Clichy.
It is true that Clichy was probably the most average of a plethora of fantastic left backs at the club – Sammy Nelson, Kenny Samson, Nigel Winterburn, Ashley Cole were all probably better defenders at the club, but Gael was part of a legacy, a horde of ruthless men aspiring for football excellency. He can be proud of the fact that he played some part in that unforgettable season of 2003-04.
Despite his “moments” of stupidity, Gael has been a fantastic servant to the club. He has always carried himself with dignity and poise, never making a fuss about things his fellow footballers found disconcerting. He has given Arsenal some amazing years to remember, now that he is gone, the fans would understand how much they will miss the footballer. A prototype of rapid overlapping runs, Clichy has been a steadfast character with the fans and players alike.
“Gael Clichy, Clichy, he’s better than Ash-e-ley, he should have been number three, Gael Clichy, Clichy“
— Unfortunately, those chants won’t be heard any more at The Emirates!
We, The Arsenal Contingent at TheHardTackle, wish Gael all the best for his future in The City of Manchester.
Tout Le Meilleur!