May 162007

Gael Clichy

Ashley who? I always hoped he could step into Cole’s boots, and in the times the little money grabber was injured he always slotted in well. But I never expected him to have the level of season he’s had. For me, he is our most improved player this season, and a challenger for the full player of the season (which’ll come later). Has the pace to make a challenge instantly and recover if he doesn’t win it, and most of all, works his socks off. For that he is loved by the fans, and rightly so. He is improving at a superb rate, and my only concern is his susceptibility to injury. Although we’ve been unlucky with injuries this season, we have been fortunate that he’s stayed fit with such young backup. Justifiably first choice.

Armand Traore

From a playing perspective, he appears to have a lot of similarities to Eboue, in that he is tricky, looks very promising going forward, but defensively is far from sound. At such a tender age, he has an excuse for this though, and will surely improve. Looks very bright, and with experience will become a very good left back. But is he ready if Clichy gets injured and Bill doesn’t move to left back? I’d like to see him play 15 games, often in cups, but not 40.

Emmanuel Eboue

Having just signed a new contract Eboue is here to stay, and for that I am glad. He is a truly fine talent, especially going forward, and has the ability to become a better defensive full back too. That said, to become the player he can be he needs to buckle down, cut out his on field antics, and get on with it. He now has a reputation (earned) for diving, and such reputations are nigh on impossible to shift. Showed in the derby at the end of the season that when he cuts out the idiocy he can be a superb player. If he applies himself, he could be first choice for years to come. Remember a year ago he was being compared with Garrincha. Was that over the top? Probably. But the talent is there.

Justin Hoyte

Could Hoyte and Eboue be more different? Hoyte’s strength is his defending, and there he has improved massively, but still offers little going forward, which is an area to work on. Probably doesn’t have Eboue’s natural talent, but does have application and work rate. For me he’s an excellent stand-in, but I’d pick Eboue for his talent alone, and then drop him for a while when he starts playing up. It worked with Jens, it may work here.

Kolo Toure

Utterly immense for the first half of the season, then made a few poor mistakes towards the end, but we can forgive him for that because quite frankly he must’ve been exhausted. I still don’t understand why he plays every game in every competition, he surely can’t be that fit, can he? Does he not need a rest? He is consistently superb, and for me he should be our next captain. Plenty of years left in him, and he is one player who never stops fighting. Might one day score with one of those belters from distance, but at least he’s willing to have a go.

William Gallas

Much criticised on the blogs, the papers have picked up on the vibes from the fans and reprinted the same story periodically throughout the season. Even Wenger’s trying to convince us that he’ll be better next time around. In my opinion, he’s been a disappointment this season, which, if he’d kept his mouth shut, we may have just attributed to injuries (note not many have criticised Rosicky). Unfortunately, Bill has a tendency to spout off to the press, criticising everything from the medical staff to the young players who provided the season’s highlight. I don’t want to see him at left back, as he’d stunt the growth we have there, and his partnership with Kolo isn’t working. Given the Ivorian’s ability, leadership and battling skills, that means Gallas isn’t a first teamer in my eyes. Would be a great squad player, especially covering from the bench, but you know he won’t accept that. If someone gave us another 5m for him, I’d be happy to show him the door. Alternatively, if he knuckled down, shut up, and played a squad game, I’d happily cheer him every week.

Phillippe Senderos

Such a confidence player. When on a run, he is a virtual brick wall that cannot be passed, but when short on belief, he makes such basic mistakes. I think he needs a run in the team to believe in himself, and only then will the real Senderos come out. The comparisons with Adams emerge when he’s on song, but his confidence problem can be best demonstrated by putting him up against his nemesis, Drogba. Since that Charity Shield game a couple of years ago he’s feared the irritatingly talented Ivorian. If I was Wenger I’d tell Senderos he was, as of now, a first choice centre back, and give him a run in the team alongside Kolo. If that happens, they could form quite the partnership, and actually have some aerial presence backed up by Toure’s recovery pace. Sorry Bill.

Johann Djourou

Here is a prime example of how we expect too much too soon. He looked fantastic when he first broke into the side, but he’s too raw to be playing at centre back week in week out at the moment. He reminds me a bit of Mattias Sammer, with the ability to bring the ball out of defence with authority, and this bodes very well. Like some others., he also works very hard and seems to have a superb team ethic. When in the side, he is committed. When out, he works at getting back in, quietly. Whether his best position is central defender or defensive midfielder is still a question, but a ball carrying centre back is probably what he’ll be for the foreseeable.

So there we have it. The good point is that we have two players for every position, which is key at this level, and Traore is probably the only one you’d be uncomfortable about relying on for ten games in a row, and only then because of his tender age.

Two negatives – the first I touched on already, and that is William Gallas. My first choice backline is Clichy-Senderos-Toure-Eboue, with Gallas on the bench, and Hoyte, Traore and Djourou waiting in the wings. Gallas won’t accept that, while the other three would simply knuckle down and try to force their way back in. I can’t help but think that while a player of his experience adds guidance to the squad, it may be a happier place if he wasn’t around. Who knows what happens behind the scenes – maybe he’s more helpful than he appears, but if he left, we’d need another centre back but I wouldn’t be too concerned.

The other negative also relates to Gallas, and the partnership he has with Toure. As I said above, this would be resolved by dropping Gallas, but I can’t see Wenger doing that. How brave a decision is he willing to make?

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