2010-11 Season Review: The Fullbacks
Here’s the second in wearethenorthbank’s mult-part review of those that wore the red and white of The Arsenal in 2010-11.
Sagna is our Mr. Dependable and one of the few players who can hold his head up in the latter part of the season. He’s been to blame for relatively few of our dodgy moments at the back. The only real criticism is of his input at the other end. Most of our home games look like an Attack vs. Defence exercise; one of the few ways to get beyond the assembled hoards is to commit more men forward on the overlap. By virtue of this tactic, Sagna is often the furthest player forward and his final ball is rarely more than speculative.
To criticise Sagna for this feels a bit like nit picking because a) he’s primarily a first class defender and b) it must be very difficult for an on rushing full back to deliver pin point crosses when no one wants to gamble on a run to the six yard box. This problem might be solved if Chamakh is given the same exposure he was in the first half of the campaign or if Bendtner is afforded some time through the middle – though it’s looking likely that big Dane’s Arsenal days are numbered.
You can take the argument about Sagna’s crossing and apply that to Clichy. As well as the poor quality of his centres we often see Gael maraud into the opponents half and run out of ideas. On one hand, it’s not expected of a full back to have the delicate touch and vision of Dennis Bergkamp however, given the importance of overlapping runs in the modern game, there should really be more end product from a top level full back.
One thing Clichy has always excelled at is interceptions. His ability to sniff out a pass and nip in ahead of his man has been first class although at times this season that has slipped and he’s left us a little exposed. I would argue that this is a risk worth taking; these interceptions would be significant if the rest of the side attacked with a bit more pace.
The most worrying area of Gael’s game is that he seems to switch off when the rest of the back four are playing the offside trap. It’s happened a few times now. Again, maybe a touch harsh given the fine margins but when it becomes a repeated error, it needs work.
It’s likely that Clichy will leave this summer which I personally think would be a shame but, given our need for a fresh impetus sentiment needs to be put to one side. Maybe Clichy is one of those that we could improve on. As always though, the task of finding someone significantly better who is available and affordable won’t be easy.
I will always have the utmost respect for the way Eboue returned from being chastised by his own “supporters” a couple of years ago. He has so much enthusiasm which means he’s equally likely to penetrate a defence with a 40 yard dribble as he is to bundle over an ugly Dutchmen in the 732nd minute of a season defining match.
On one hand he’s a player worth having for his attacking threat yet, on the other his end product – like our other full backs – is disappointing. One of the things that let us down this season was the lack of impact made by the fringe players. None of the likes of Eboue, Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky etc did anything to stake a claim for a regular first team place. There was a feeling that these players were happy to play when required but not desperate to fight for a place in the team.
It’s this that we must improve on. We need players who are desperate to play, not happy to do a job. Players you can rely upon when needed. Sadly Eboue has not quite fulfilled those requirements.
In a season in which Clichy failed to hit previous heights and Gibbs was given his first full England cap, it’s disappointing that the 21-year-old hasn’t staked a better claim to make the left back slot his own. His injury record may provide a decent explanation though he desperately needs to improve his positional sense.
Last season Gibbs looked like the next off the production line of attacking full backs but this season hasn’t been quite as impressive. Defensively he’s looked nervous. That said, he does have better composure in the attacking third than our other full backs. He’s more than happy to overlap and, rather than just whip a hopeful ball in, he’s prepared to take it to the by-line or get into the box himself. He has the valuable skill of being able to beat a man with more than just pace.
If Clichy is to depart, Gibbs may yet get his chance. Of course, Wenger looks poised to introduce the versatile Carl Jenkinson from Charlton as cover on both sides and is seriously looking at Leighton Baines however; I wouldn’t be surprised if we are priced out by Everton. Gibbs may get a chance to prove he’s an heir to the left back position although personally, given our defensive frailty, I’d favour a bit more experience.