Assured Clichy has made it a case of 'Ashley who?'
After a thrilling come-from-behind win against Man Utd it is definitely the case that these are more good times to savour as an Arsenal fan. I would not swap Henry, Cesc or RVP for any other player in world football. They have the special talent and the special motivation to make supporting them a joy and its simply fantastic that I can expect to see them play and inprove in the same team for some time to come.
Henry is Henry: and what a cool header that was to win it. I'll repeat what I said about Cesc after the Real Madrid game: he has the talent, composure, temperament and motivation to become the world's best midfield playmaker. And van Persie is simply one of the most technically-gifted footballers I have ever seen- for some time I have stated my wonder at his fantastic ball-striking technique and again he demonstrated this with his 'true-strike' to gain the all-important equaliser yesterday.
But in this post I want to focus on a player who has impressed me from the first time I saw him play in the Arsenal shirt: Gael Clichy. He has - as expected - made the departure of Ashley Cole a virtual non-event for the functioning of this Arsenal team.
Quite aside from sharing the physical characteristics and the same high defensive and attacking qualities as Ashley Cole, I reckon that he is slightly faster and a better ball-dribbler than Cole. He has excellent technical ability on the ball and is composed when having possession in tight situations.
Clichy also looks to have always had an excellent temperament which is a major reason why I have always had faith in the young Frenchman. For me, he is a player to be trusted to be fully concentrated on the pitch and this can be indicated by the fact that his consistency of performance- something which Cole excelled at - is very good.
Yesterday Clichy started up against perhaps the most in-form winger in world-football, Cristiano Ronaldo. And just as Ashley Cole memorably did in Euro 2004, Clichy gave no inch against the flying Portugese winger.
Twice Ronaldo tried to knock the ball past Clichy and fly round the other side of him to continue his dribble. And twice Clichy outsprinted Ronaldo, got the ball first, and found an Arsenal teammate. So effective was Clichy against Ronaldo that this may have influenced to a large extect Ferguson's decision to switch the Portugese international to the left wing after about 35 minutes where he remained for the rest of the game. This was a good decision by Ferguson because for me Clichy would have remained more than a match for Ronaldo.
Clichy is still only 21 years old and with all his qualities - including what looks to me a special temperament - I believe he will be a consistently excellent performer for the team for a very long time to come. Making the loss of a player of the quality of Cole a virtual irrelevance so quickly is no-mean feat, but it is one that Gael Clichy has done with seamless ease and what's more it is exactly what I expected of him. For me at least his presence at left-back has quickly made it a case of 'Ashley who?'.