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FC Midtjylland V Aalborg BK, Mar 14
Ordaye (Liverpool) 6 years ago
It may seem remarkable, but having joined Arsenal in 2003 from French side AS Cannes, young left-back Gael Clichy has now been at the club for seven years.

In just his second season at the club, the Toulouse-born defender earned himself a Premier League winner's medal; two years later he was involved in the Gunners' fateful run to the Champions League final against Barcelona.

Now, aged 24, he is a relative veteran in this young Arsenal side that is looking to win the club's first silverware since the days of the Invincibles.

In this exclusive interview with UK, Clichy reveals why he'd rather win the domestic title over anything else this season and why he'd like to face long-term Arsenal transfer target Marouane Chamakh in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

So Gael, what were your aims both personally and for the club at the start of the season?

For the team it was about winning as much silverware as possible – of course, now that’s just the Premier League and the Champions League. The Premier League is really good and close. The confidence is there and the quality is there – it’s all for us to take - so hopefully we can make it.

And for you personally?

My personal goals are the same as the team’s. If I can play well then I can go to the World Cup and for any player that is a dream come true. To do that I need to maintain my form from the last few games until the end of the season.

If you had to choose between the Premier League and the World Cup what would it be?

Hey, you said this was going to be an easy interview – you can’t ask me this! [Laughs] To choose it would be really difficult. The World Cup is the best competition ever but at the same time I know that if I’m a champion with Arsenal then I’ve got a good chance of going to the World Cup. So I’d say I’ll go for the Premier League.

What would be the best thing about winning the league this season?

Even though I didn’t play many games, I won it a few seasons ago and it was a great feeling. When you work so hard for one year you go through good results and bad results; good publicity and bad publicity – but when you win the title it shows you’ve been the best team. That’s why I want to win the Premier League over the Champions League. The Champions League may be a better trophy in the eyes of everyone but the Premier League shows a lot of character over a whole season so I really hope we’re going to make it this year.

Is the atmosphere within the team better this season than ever before?

No, it’s different. If you talk about the team that won the title without losing a game they had an incredible atmosphere and spirit. This year, we’ve all been playing together for four or five years and we’re all the same age. So a player like Kieran Gibbs or Jack Wilshire who is 16 or 17 doesn’t feel bad because we are all the same age, we can all laugh about other players and there is no trouble. That’s what makes it special this year.

What is Cesc Fabregas like as a captain?

Cesc is a leader but on the pitch he just lets his football do the talking. When we’re struggling to beat a team he’s the one who pulls the team up. He’s scored 17 goals and 16 assists – you cannot do more than that. He’s not the kind of guy who says 'Come on man, we have to do this!' On the pitch, the only thing you can do is try to do as good as him because he’s so great.
"Cesc is a leader but on
The pitch he just lets his
Football do the talking.
When we’re struggling to
Beat a team he’s the one
Who pulls the team up"

Arsenal keep on being written off this season and yet you keep coming back. Has there been one game that made you really believe you can win the league?

It’s not just one game but a lot of games. After the home game against Chelsea when we lost 3-0 we found ourselves 11 points behind them and you start asking questions of yourselves. But then a few weeks later we beat Bolton 4-2 and we were top of the league - so in this job you can never give up until the last minute. Everything is possible, particularly this year with teams dropping points against anyone at any time - that’s been good for us.

The Arsenal fans certainly enjoyed the last-minute winner against Hull. How does it feel as a player?

It’s great! If you lose, when you go back home to London you feel tired and you don’t want to talk to anybody. In the week following the game you feel really down, nobody is talking and nobody is laughing. When you win you don’t feel tired. If you have a game in two days you don’t have a problem. You feel ready to go again. So Hull was really important for the confidence and the mentality of all the players. Hopefully against West Ham we can do better and kill the game earlier.

Arsenal have found it tough against West Ham in the past. You drew against them earlier in the season when you should have won. What is it about them that causes Arsenal problems?

They’ve got good players and they play good football even though this season they’ve been struggling. They’ve got great players up front, in the middle of the park and in defence plus it’s a London derby. We know we can win against any team but it’s a derby and you cannot always say that Arsenal will win by five goals.

This season, in sharp contrast to previous years, Arsenal have got the best away form in the league. What’s this been down to? Have you been doing anything different?

No, no, no. It’s just the way we play. It’s difficult for teams to play against us because when you’re home, it’s supposed to be you making the game and taking responsibility for going forward. That’s what we like – when teams challenge us and leave space for us to exploit. We have exciting players going forward and Cesc and Tomas Rosicky can always find the last pass. So it’s good playing away from home even if sometimes you can have a hard time.

Why do you think Arsenal struggled against Manchester United and Chelsea this season? Was it because they refused to give you that space to exploit or they were too physically strong?

No, the last two games we played against them we conceded five goals and all five goals were due to individual mistakes. So, although it’s really easy to say but if we can avoid individual mistakes then we can win the game. If you find yourself 2-0 down after an hour, it’s difficult to go and win the game. Maybe we were not focused enough but in terms of quality we are up there with them.

Was it perhaps a lack of belief that led you to ‘play with the handbrake on’ and not play your game?

I’m not talking about Man UTD because we weren’t up for the challenge. We were losing every 50/50, we were always second best. But against Chelsea, they played well and scored two goals – but apart from those two goals and Drogba’s free-kick against the bar they didn’t make any other chances and we had most of the ball. Of course you don’t play football to keep the ball and to have more possession and more passes than the other team but it shows you that away from home we still controlled them and if it wasn’t for the mistake and the first goal, who knows what would have been the result
Ordaye (Liverpool) 6 years ago
Yet based only on club football, it is almost impossible to suggest that Lionel Messi will not win the Ballon d'Or or the World Player award this year if he guides Barcelona to Champions League glory. Granted, Cristiano Ronaldo has looked truly galactic in La Liga for Real Madrid and Rooney has been exceptionally dominant in the Premier League, but one stroke of Messi's brush and you would forget that there was ever a Ronaldo or a Rooney, so destructively charming the Messiah's spell is.

In one of his September columns for, yours truly proclaimed Messi as El Diego II, the perfect and most apt successor to Maradona's throne as the world's greatest ever footballer. Six months fast forward, and there is no logical reason to say anything to the contrary

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