Archive for April 21st, 2008


Slap in the face

The fourth player of Arsenal’s top 5 players of 2007/2008 is Gael Clichy.  Arsenal’s tireless and seemingly  unbreakable (knock on wood) left back has had a second solid year in a row.  Gael has started more games than any other player and played more minutes than any other player.  He even played for France in January and February and came back uninjured: is Clichy French for miracle?

How he’s able to maintain that energy level is just amazing because it’s not like the man isn’t doing anything when he’s out there.  Whether it’s the odious job of defending speedy right wingers or bringing the ball forward and launching in the perfect cross Clichy does it all.  But he’s also so solid defensively that when the opposition brings the ball into his corner I actually feel relief.

No, he’s not perfect but he’s a tremendous defender, a tireless worker, probably almost as fast as Theo, and I’ve never seen a tantrum or a dive from him, ever.  So, here’s to you Gael Clichy; may you have 10 seasons at Arsenal, each one just as good as this.

News: The Daily Mail is ratcheting up the hyperbole surrounding Hleb’s “malicious mauling” of Graham Murty.  I’ve seen the replay a dozen times and it looks more like Hleb was pushing the guy away (probably because he was being held or kicked, but you know we’ll never see THAT) and caught him in the face a little.  Of course, Murty, realizing the only hope they had to win was to have Arsenal reduced to 10 or maybe even 9 men, fell to the ground as if he’s been shot in the face.  I think Hleb, at this point in the season, probably weighs all of 130 lbs: 120 of which is leg muscles.  I doubt he could drop a man of Murty’s stature with an intentional punch, much less a “hey get off of me!” shove that grazes his lips.  Of course Murty made a huge deal of it all, going over to the sideline and getting “treatment.”  Please.

My favorite part of the article?  When they compare this incident to something that happened 20 years ago and say “The circumstances are certainly not without precedent as far as Arsenal are concerned.”  Wow.  Just.  Wow.  But wait!  There’s more!  They even go ahead and mention “former Arsenal” player Aliadiere!

That Arsenal, what a bunch of monsters.

Except Theo.  He’s a man, but not a monster, says Wenger and I’d have to agree.  At the beginning of the season, Theo looked shy whenever he got the start but Saturday was different.  After a very brief bout of nerves at the start of the match he looked very assured, very mature.  He also showed more physicality than we’ve come to expect from him and I thought he defended well from the front.  I bet if he adds 10 pounds of muscle this off season, we’ll see a very different young man next year.

Unleash the beast Theo.

On the transfer front there’s no news.  None.  Well, Wenger is warning the players that a transfer to another team doesn’t guarantee trophies — unless it’s “Manchester We Want Our Trophy Back United” who are guaranteed to win a treble every year, right???  But if I were to guess which three players were going to leave Arsenal in the summer I’d go with Hleb, Flamini, and Gallas.  Hleb because the ice cream in London is not nearly as dreamy as a nice gelato and he’s got guys like Murty trying to kick him off the pitch all the time.

Flamini, because, well because I think he’s probably more hard headed than even Wenger and this whole new deal thing is probably ticking him off.  The sticking point on Flamini’s contract is that he wants to break Arsneal’s wage structure.  And he’s got a good point about it too; from what I’ve read in various sources, basically he’s asking that the cost of transfer fees (what it would cost to bring in a replacement) and his regular salary to be put into one salary for him.  This would be a deal like £4.5m a year for 5 years (£10m transfer fee + £50k a week salary / 5 years).  I have to say that I see his point, EXCEPT…  There are players on the team right now who can fill his shoes.  Well, maybe not fill them 100%.  Gilberto, for sure, he did it last year.  But I’m thinking of Denilson.  I know that a lot of people tipped Diaby for that role early on because of his physical similarities to Vieira but Diaby doesn’t have the mettle that Vieira had and frankly, Diaby’s a defensive liability.  But Denilson is a hard little bastard and I think if given the opportunity would work tirelessly in the spot.  Would he be the leader that Flamini is?  No.  Does he have the experience of two Champions League seasons under his belt.  Hardly.  But he could do the job if asked.

That’s such a hard spot to be in.  On the one hand I totally respect Wenger’s wage system and what that means to the team and to the business.  But on the other hand, I would hate to lose an important seasoned leader and workhorse like Flamini — and on a free transfer.  UGH.

Lastly, I think Gallas is going to go.  I don’t think he’s been a very good captain (as I said, Flamini seems better) and given his history as a disruptive force on and off the pitch, the only way I can see Wenger stripping him of that title is if Arsenal buys a player of extraordinary quality and experience. Since we all know that ain’t going to happen, the only other real option is to move Gallas.  Maybe Wenger can use whatever transfer fee he gets from that deal to pay for Flamini?

One last thought…  I don’t want it to seem like I’m getting down on Gallas.  I think if I played professional football I’d be the same way he is: emotional, fiery, mouthy, and a bit of a prick on and off the field.  I empathize with him, I really do.  I’m not saying Wenger SHOULD trade him, just that the logical thing is that he will.

Any way, I have to take my annual bath and get ready for work.  I bet you’ll never guess who tomorrow’s “top 5” player will be.  Until then.

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