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Does Gael Clichy’s beginning mean Kolarov’s end?

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Coming off the back of a successful season, Manchester City are beginning to make their moves in the transfer market. The first signing has come in the form of defender Gael Clichy, who finalised his move from Arsenal to their rivals on Monday for an undisclosed fee thought to be around £7million. This now calls into question the strategy of Roberto Mancini and implications for the other left backs at City, a position they seemingly had difficulties with during the 2010-11 season. Indeed Mancini seemed to have settled on Aleksandar Kolarov, but with the capture of Clichy, there could be doubt once more.

Mancini by his own admission has stated he wished to play with ‘flying fullbacks’. At the time he planned for Kolarov and Boateng to fill those roles, but problems with injuries and form for both players quashed that dream. Furthermore, with the very real prospect of Boateng returning to Germany with Bayern Munich Mancini’s plan seems unlikely to be manifested by that specific pairing.

Kolarov though looks likely to remain at the club, now not only with competition from Pablo Zabaleta, but Clichy too. Clichy has the edge in terms of experience of English football having made 187 appearances for Arsenal in 8 seasons since his transfer from Cannes at 17. He also is reported to have commanded less than half of Kolarov’s £16million price-tag. Last season’s statistics show a balance between the two players; Clichy having better discipline picking up only 3 yellow cards in 33 appearences, with Kolarov shown the yellow 6 times and a being sent off once.

Interestingly, Clichy conceded a total of 32 fouls whilst Kolarov conceded 17, this alludes to Clichy being less clumsy and having more knowledge of the referee’s booking practices. Kolarov holds a slight advantage in the goals conceded per game ratio, with exactly 1 compared to Clichy’s 1.09 and his clean sheet to games statistic is marginally better, with 0.24 to Clichy’s 0.17. So whilst the statistics project something of a balance, to the fan like me, Clichy feels a drastically better option for City.

He brings with him a proven Premier and Champions League track record, better discipline, more athleticism and crucially an updated knowledge of Arsenal’s playing style. Having received a 3-0 drubbing at Eastlands and being tactically and motivationally inhibited to the stage they were undeserving of the point taken from the Emirates, another insider’s view can only be an advantage. Kolarov proved to be an attack minded full back, with his overlapping runs providing solid options out wide, however the main complaint from City fans is his tendency to lose the ball and subsequently become non-committal in regaining possession. His unenthusiastic defensive traits were epitomised during the game with West Ham at Eastlands on May 1st. At 2-0 City were cruising but Demba Ba made the occasion more dangerous than necessary when he scored a goal which could have been blocked by Kolarov who instead opted for a half-hearted leg wave. These flaws could be down to adjusting to English football and next season I feel will decide Kolarov’s future at City.

Clichy was initially understudy to undoubtedly the best English left back Ashley Cole whose own attacking style fits Mancini’s ‘flying fullback’ description. So if Clichy can get a run in the side early on, perform more solidly in defence than Kolarov, utilise the skills gained from watching Cole and being part of an Arsenal side capable of playing unequivocal attacking football, it is hard to see Kolarov ousting him.

Signing Clichy displays consistency in Mancini’s tactical decisions. They have prioritised their defence under him, so tweaking the defensive personnel is unsurprising and wise considering it addresses their ‘problem position’. Mancini must now handle the expected loss of Carlos Tevez due to somewhat over relying on him for goals and creativity. In the last 2 seasons he has been responsible for 42% of their goals tally, something which the media and fans seem keen for Mancini to balance out. I say this as totalling the 40+ big name players City have been linked with, just under 50% have been attackers; Sanchez, Nasri, Hulk, Neymar, Modric, the list goes on.

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1 comment

  • Tom says:

    No, we need more than one left back in the squad. They will rotate and complete for that spot.

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