All praise Wenger, Clichy tells fans

Full-back says manager is why Arsenal are better than chop-and-change Chelsea
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The Independent Football

Arsenal supporters, well some at least, be careful what you wish for. Gaël Clichy, the left-back, and perhaps the most articulate of Arsène Wenger's would-be golden generation, puts forward a contentious argument as to why fans would do well to reflect on what they have, rather than wish for a new manager. They could turn into Chelsea.

"When I heard that Arsenal wanted to sign me," Clichy said, recalling his move, six years ago from Cannes for just £250,000, "the first thing I thought of was that the boss was here and he would be here for many years to come. So, when you see a club like Chelsea who change a few managers in one year, it's difficult as a footballer.

"You just want to focus on football but when you change coach it's difficult to cope with, and that's why it's important that Arsenal have a manager like Arsène Wenger. You can play without the best players in your team but a club cannot have success with [a series of] different coaches. It's why it's good to have him at this club." Chelsea will no doubt point out that since Arsenal lifted their last trophy – the FA Cup in 2005 – they have won two Premier League titles, in 2005 and 2006, an FA Cup and a League Cup, although those were achieved at dizzying expense including the purchase of the man Clichy, still just 23, succeeded in Wenger's team, Ashley Cole.

Since replacing Jose Mourinho, with Avram Grant and then Luiz Felipe Scolari, there has been no silverware at Stamford Bridge, too.

Clichy, unsurprisingly, firmly believes that not only has Wenger built something more lasting but that his record of achievement is deserving of more patience. "Even with what he has done for the club – a big part of why Arsenal is what it is, is down to the boss – people tend to forget a little bit," Clichy said.

"But you want results, you want to do better and today we are fifth and that's not good enough for a club like this. And, of course, that's why people talk about him. But you have to realise that he's an amazing coach.

"In football, when you haven't got the results it's the manager who gets the criticism and of course it's up to him to make something happen, but it's up to the players as well. They are a big part of this."

Clichy has not been immune to the criticism himself. Deemed Arsenal's best player during the last campaign, he has, in company with others, struggled this season. Lapses have proved costly and although, unlike Emmanuel Eboué and Nicklas Bendtner, he has not felt the wrath of the supporters inside the Emirates, he's obviously heard the boos. "We talk as players and we understand the frustration of the fans and it's their right to express themselves," Clichy said. "I'm not saying I totally agree with them but when you are a club like Arsenal you want to win trophies and be the best and when the results are not as you want, then the frustration is there."

Clichy agrees that another FA Cup triumph may be the most likely route to success this season. Tomorrow, Arsenal face Burnley in the delayed fifth-round tie with the winners at home to Hull City in the quarter-finals.

Both those sides have beaten Arsenal this season but Clichy is confident that, with an injury list that is finally being reduced, the season is turning. "When you have had a lot of injured players like we have had this season, it's difficult to cope," he said. "If you took the five main players out of Manchester United for months then it would be different."

Clichy joined forces with team-mates to collaborate with artist Gerald Scarfe on the design of an ultimate Arsenal car which will be raffled in aid of Arsenal's charity of the season, Teenage Cancer Trust. The car will be at Emirates Stadium on Sunday where raffle tickets will be available to buy, or visit www.beagoonerbeagiver.org to find out more.

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