Monday, 4 July 2011

Clichy/ cliche

I've fallen off the wagon - after months of keeping away from the Arsenal blogs, I'm back on NewsNow, searching for transfer news, the inside dope. The dope, however, is me - I'm going to swear off again.

A bizarre article in The Guardian today by Dominic Fifield is, to all intents and purposes, a call for Arsenal to break their pay structure and to pay its players what they receive at Chelsea and Man United; a demand for financial irresponsibility, in other words. It's curious how twisted the logic gets. Rather than lament spiralling wage bills (which have, and will continue to produce, calamitous and near-catastrophic consequences for large clubs - does no-one remember Leeds or Portsmouth?), the article attacks Arsenal's parsimoniousness. We should pay Samir Nasri (who has half a great season to his name) £120,000 a week, opines Fifield, because United or Chelsea or Citeh can. Well, Arsenal shouldn't. In fact, if these really are his wage demands, they should sell him, preferably abroad, and in 5 years time he can look back, as I'm sure Hleb, or Adebayor, or even Nico Anelka do and he can ask himself: 'what did I do that for?' I have a strong feeling that a lot of the Nasri tittle-tattle is his Mr 20% stirring the pot to strengthen their hand in negotiations, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to read that Nasri's staying in the end. However, you can't really expect Arsene or Ivan Gazidis to comment on this if it's all ongoing.

A little honesty from the club wouldn't go amiss, though. If there's little to spend, say so. If the Arsenal cannot compete against the 'financial doping' of Chelsea, Citeh or United, say so, loudly and often. Remind the fans that Arsenal are currently trying to play an equitable game against the house (the football-media-spectacle complex), and wins against the house are rare.

And so to Clichy. Farewell; a good player, but suspect defensively, caught out by not having a left-midfielder to track back ahead of him, leaving too often exposed. Arsene expects a lot of his full-backs - not only do they (in gridiron parlance) have to be 'shutdown corners', snuffing out the threat of opposing wingers, they also have to create the width going forward. Clichy didn't quite match up to Ashley Cole, or Sagna, or Lauren, or the blessed Nutty. He might do well in Mancini's more prosaic, defensive ethos. But a catastrophic loss? No. After all, he was part of the team that ended last season with a record that bespoke relegation rather than challenging for the title. (So was Nasri, let us not forget.) Replacing him shouldn't prove that costly or difficult, even if Gibbs's injury-prone young legs do not prove more robust. Even if what we have instead is a more stay-at-home, defensively minded player.

In fact, I wouldn't mind at all the signing of some meat-and-potatoes players, some gritty workers (for despite what Martin Samuel says here, Arsene has never bought superstars - he makes them). Perhaps Benzema would set the front line alight, but he might not, and he hasn't exactly done so in Madrid. I can't say I'm excited by, or give any credence to the Kevin Doyle rumours (nor Stewart Downing for £20m, etc) but if we did buy, say, Leighton Baines, and Parker or Barton, and Samba or Cahill, none of these are 'superstars'. But I wouldn't be unhappy with them. Add in Gervinho, and maybe one other, and I think we'd have a pretty good mix with our current squad, even without Clichy, Nasri and even Cesc. This Arsenal team needs more Ray Parlours, not more Thierry Henrys.

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