10 Things We Learnt In Lockdown With Gael Clichy by Dan Smith
Clichy in many ways bookends the two eras of Arsene Wenger. His first season happens to be the year we went unbeaten, followed by many years where a young Arsenal squad found themselves often the bridesmaids. Eventually the left back became yet another name to jump ship to Man City, which he accepts affected his relationship with gooners.
Here are 10 Things We Learnt In Lockdown With Gael Clichy
He Was in The French 3rd Division
To give you an idea how great our scouting network was, Clichy was playing in the French 3rd Division, and he and his Dad were trying to arrange a move to France’s 2nd Division. So, imagine their shock when Arsene Wenger wants dinner with them?
Arsene Wenger’s Attention To Detail
Mr Wenger flew to France to meet Clichy and his parents. When it was suggested he would replace Van Bronkhurst as our second choice left back, the teenager asked in his own shy way, was the manager just saying what the player wanted to hear just to get him to sign a contract? His future boss proceeded to prove just how long they had been scouting the full back and the amount of detail they had about him as a person. A story was told about a training drill that only those at Cannes would have known about, showing how long Arsenal had been talking to his current employers.
Touré Family Looked After Him
It could not have been easy to be a French teenager who can’t speak English suddenly living in London. Of the many teammates who helped him off the pitch, Clichy credits the Touré Family for helping with little things which made life more comfortable. Whether it be helping him find his way round the capital city, picking him up to go shopping, driving him to training, or making sure he had access to French TV, the Touré Family really looked after him.
Henry’s Words Of Wisdom
Within 10 months in English Football Clichy had played enough games to earn a title medal. As he was walking around the Highbury pitch celebrating with the trophy, Henry put his arm round his shoulder and warned the youngster not to take this for granted, pointing out that some great names had failed to lift the Premiership. At the time the teenager wondered what would stop the striker from partying to suddenly have such a serious conversation? Now in his thirties, the left back understands this was simply one of the leaders of his dressing room looking after a youngster’s development, not wanting him to take the moment for granted.
Vieira Was Never Replaced
Many have said this regarding what Vieira did on the pitch, but Clichy goes into detail about the captain’s presence throughout the club. Never a shouter, Clichy explains that Vieira led by example. There were certain standards he demanded in training which brought the maximum out of everyone else. While other quality players would come in afterwards Clichy feels the loss of Viera left a big gap.
Doesn’t Blame The Birmingham Game
Unlike others Clichy does not view the day Eduardo broke his leg as a turning point in that season’s title race. He rightly points out that we were still top of the table with many points left to play for. He adds on another day we easily could have gone 3-1 up and if VAR were around back then maybe he wouldn’t have conceded a 90th minute penalty?
Henry’s Phone Call
Gallas had very publicly shown his frustration at Clichy’s mistake which led to the 90th minute Birmingham penalty. Instead of his captain supporting the youngster he kicked in the advertising boards and staged a one-man sit-down protest. Clichy did get some guidance from Thierry Henry, even though the striker was no longer at the club. His ex-skipper told Clichy to keep his head up and not let one incident undermine how well everyone had played that season. It told Clichy two things. How much Henry still loved the Gunners to take time out like that, but also how the dressing room lacked leaders, by the fact it took someone else to give a pep talk and not a current teammate.
Clichy accepts he’s part of a generation of players seen as failures as they were often reminded by how long Arsenal’s trophy drought was going on for. The player also points out though it’s a double edged sword as the only reason that young team is accused of underachieving is because of the beautiful football they played. He echoes what most gooners will say about that time frame, when it mattered, they just couldn’t cope with the pressure to ever get over the line.
Bizarre Back Injury
Like many of our players, Clichy seemed to get niggling injuries which were more serious than the original diagnosis. A problem with his back might have been a reason why we accepted an offer from Man City. Clichy was on the side-lines having pulled a right muscle in his back followed by the same issue on the left side. He now claims its really rare for someone in his twenties to have the problem as it’s more common to happen to a teenager while their body develops.
Didn’t Feel Wanted
What’s been an interesting theme throughout this Lockdown series is the number of players who have said they never wanted to leave the club. When you consider the pressure we were under every summer to raise funds for the Emirates debt, it’s not farfetched to think they may have been happy for players to be sold while making out to fans the move was being forced upon them. At one point Clichy wanted to spend his entire career in North London but felt driven out, largely thinking that the club were putting more incentive on having a nucleus of British players. He says while he was never asked to leave, he was never told to stay either.