Clichy keen to add to his experience
Despite being only 22, Gaël Clichy, is alongside Kolo Toure and Gilberto Silva as one of the most experienced performers at Arsenal - the club he joined in 2002 from French side Cannes. As perhaps the best left back in the Premier League, Clichy has not only got his eyes on winning the English title but also on playing for 'Les Bleus'.
ESPNSoccernet met him in London.
ESPNSoccernet: In your 2-1 win against Fulham and in the 2-0 win against Sparta, Arsenal seemed to display a new mental stability towards the end of the matches.
Clichy: 'It just goes to show that we will never ever give in. Things have changed in comparison to the last few seasons. In the past two years we failed to have a true winning attitude at the start of the season and that cost us dearly.
Last year we lost seven points in the first three matches of the season. We gave up more easily towards the end of the matches simply because we weren't focused enough. We especially had problems against the lesser sides. After a win in Manchester you simply cannot allow yourself to go and lose points against Wigan. But this has been a big learning experience for us and today we finish the game with the same focus as we start it.'
ESPNSoccernet: Thanks to your 2-0 win in Prague you took a huge step towards qualifying for the UEFA Champions League again.
Clichy: 'We knew that in terms of technical ability we were far better than them. Of course we knew that they had some weapons we had to look out for.
Sparta are an extremely physical side. A lot of teams think that they can just break us down on our lack of physique because we are a young side. It is like that every week in England. But we are not the same Arsenal that you have seen the last two seasons. We have moved on.'
ESPNSoccernet: Does the team feel more at ease in the Emirates Stadium now than in the beginning?
Clichy: I never had any difficulties but yes, as a team, we had problems. The trouble we created for ourselves last season was not based on the feeling of playing in a new stadium but instead on individual errors. I made a huge mistake at home against West Ham and we lost 1-0. And I said to myself: 'It is your mistake, not the others''. Everybody must take responsibility for himself.
ESPNSoccernet: With the departures of Thierry Henry and David Dein plus the uncertainty around the future of Arsene Wenger, are Arsenal still going through a crisis?
Clichy: It's true that the last two seasons have been very difficult. In every sport there is a constant cry for titles and trophies. And at that level we have disappointed everybody. For the club it has been very difficult to see players like Vieira, Henry and Ljungberg leave year after year.
Do we need new players? Will we miss Henry? It is up to Arsene to answer that question. Players don't get mixed up in those questions. Everyone has his role to play. It is up to the coach to put the best side on the pitch and it is up to us to play the best football. If everybody works together, why shouldn't we be able to win the Champions League?
ESPNSoccernet: Will the departures of some of your more established stars allow the youngsters in your squad to develop quicker?
Clichy: It has encouraged us to hand out responsibilities to more players than we have done in the past. Previously, when we were losing 1-0 we would just trust Pat (Vieira), Dennis (Bergkamp) or Thierry (Henry) to get us out of trouble. There was nothing unusual about that because they were and are still some of the best players in the world.
In a team the old ones must lead by example without letting the youngsters remain in the shadow. But it doesn't always work like that. They were so good so a lot of our players often hid behind their talent. So perhaps their departure was a blessing in disguise. They are not here anymore, so there are no options. We have to get the job done with the means we have.
ESPNSoccernet: You are only 22 years old, but you are still one of the most experienced players in the Arsenal squad
Clichy: 'I have been at the club now for five years. I was one of four players (Kolo Toure, Gilberto Silva, Jens Lehmann) who became known as 'The Invincibles') when we won the title in 2004 without losing a match. I try to hand over my experience and pass on what Robert Pires, Thierry Henry or Sylvain Wiltord taught me.'
ESPNSoccernet: Arsene Wenger said at the beginning of this season that you are ripe to compete for a spot in the French national side this year.
Clichy: My first priority is to secure my space in the Arsenal starting-eleven. But I am working hard in practice sessions to get my chance to play for France. But I am patient. When (Raymond) Domenech decides that it is time, I am ready. At the moment there are players that are better qualified than me (Abidal and Evra). But I will continue to work at getting my chance.