As the blog's resident Gooner, I figured it was my moral obligation to weigh in on the move of Clichy to Manchester City over the weekend. As is usually the case with Arsenal over the last five or six seasons, my feelings on the topic are complex. Here's some thinking on as many aspects of the move as I can think of:
Arsenal's Loss of Clichy - Of the people who were SUPPOSED to be first choice at Arsenal last season, I'd rate him as the second worst (Almunia being the worst). He seems to have lost his mojo going forward in that he gets forward plenty but he can't really cross the ball from out wide nor does he get to the endline to draw the ball back across the box for others to run onto. All that would be OK if he could actually defend but my sleep is haunted by images of him holding attackers onside when the rest of the defense is trying to trap and when he's not doing that, he's playing on the wrong side of an attacker who beats him to the box or committing unnecessary fouls in the box for penalties. He has two exceptional tools for an outside back, speed and endurance, but he seems to have regressed in terms of using those skills to impact the outcome of matches.
Arsenal's Alternatives - The problem with losing the admittedly flawed Clichy is that I'm not sure there's a better alternative on hand. I was excited for the Gibbs era a couple of seasons back but he doesn't seem to be able to stay healthy. I'm not sure there is any reason to believe he'll find the Fountain of Health now that the starting spot is his. Beyond him, the alternatives get even more questionable (read, young and untested). That leaves the transfer market where Jose Enrique would be the logical domestic choice and Jeremy's suggestion of Marcelo would be the logical big ticket buy now that he's likely surplus to requirements at Real Madrid. The thing is that Wenger doesn't usually buy big names after they become big names and he also doesn't buy many established Premier League players. He buys from the lower divisions of English football and smaller leagues. My guess is that we see an unknown French or African left back who will end up being OK but not the plus player that Ashley Cole once was on the left.
Something Bigger At Arsenal? - Honestly, the only reason that this will even raise an eyebrow among Gooners is that it will be mentally lumped in with the other rumored departures this summer (which, to my knowledge haven't happened yet) and signal potential doom of epic proportions. Because Clichy has been starting for a while for a big club and his name is recognizable, he'll be lumped in with Fab4 and Nasri for headline purposes. In reality, Clichy isn't close to that level. If Cesc and Nasri weren't in limbo, the Clichy departure wouldn't be nearly as big a deal. In my mind, Cesc/Nasri/Clichy leaving at the same time wouldn't impact me any more than if just Cesc/Nasri left. The only slight worry would be that it just means one more transaction that Wenger needs to sort out before the middle of next month.
City's Acquisition - Is this a case of statistical analysis gone awry? There must be something in City's calculations that leads them to believe that what we've seen on the field the last two seasons isn't the real Gael Clichy. If he were a lockdown defender on the left I could see him as a great alternative to Kolarov's attacking play but it feels like Clichy could be benefiting from some strong metrics (KM run during a match, number of passes attempted/completed, etc.) that are misleading because of the way Arsenal plays and what they ask him to do. I can't wait for the first time Clichy plays someone onside stupidly and has to face Nigel de Jong in the locker room at halftime. Honestly, I'm not sure why City went for this. They've overpaid for two Arsenal players already and my sense is that they're making it a trio with Clichy.
Fantasy Analysis - This likely means that Kolarov and Clichy both lose value unless Kolarov is sold off later. On the upside, whether it is Gibbs or someone to be named later, Arsenal will have a relatively low priced left back coming in. If it turns out that left back can cross the ball, then all the better for Arsenal's attackers who might get a chance for the occasional headed goal from the run of play down the left. I'm not holding my breath on that last point though.
At the end of the day, the worst thing that will come from this at Arsenal is another perceived shot to the Wenger Way (although you don't see him putting up the same fight for Clichy as he has for Nasri or Cesc) and the best thing will be an inflated price that will certainly be better than one more year of Clichy and then seeing him leave for free.