Clichy ready for full back fight
By Tom Adams. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Gael Clichy says he is aware he has no divine right to act as Ashley Cole's successor at Arsenal following his successful return from a long term injury on Tuesday night.
The young Frenchman played 45 minutes for the Gunners' reserves against West Ham at Upton Park, and is now turning his attentions towards claiming a first team spot after playing just twice in 2006 due to a foot injury.
Clichy is perceived as a like-for-like replacement for Cole in North London after the England international moved to Chelsea on transfer deadline day, but William Gallas hast been vastly impressive in the left-back role since moving in the opposite direction.
With Justin Hoyte also featuring in a full-back position under Arsene Wenger so far this season, Clichy is fully aware he has to fight for his place in the coming weeks.
"The team are doing well now and the players are getting more confident with each game," Clichy told the club's official website.
"There is a good understanding and I do not see the boss taking someone out to put me in.
"I will work hard and as a left-back, I will fight for this position.
"I just want to be fit and feel that my foot is right - after that it is up to the boss.
"With Ashley gone now, I am the only real left-back.
"I have got a great chance and the boss knows that too. But at the moment, William is doing great and when Justin is playing, he is doing well. We have got Mathieu [Flamini] who can also play there.
"I just have to take my time, try my best and work hard because the boss is not going to play me just on reputation, so I have to fight for the chance to play."
After a dismal run of set-backs following a stress fracture to his foot which restricted him to 11 appearances last season, Clichy insists he is feeling good after his 45 minute cameo and is hoping to have put his injury problems behind him.
"I am very pleased and feel great," Clichy added.
"I wanted to do more, but am just looking forward to the next game and hope I will be better then.
"I have been injured for most of the year, but it is not like I have come back and it has been a groin problem or then a knee or a thigh problem- it was just my foot.
"Hopefully it is better now and we are all looking forwards to me playing again for the first team.
"I have been through a lot last season and every players has bad times with injuries.
"Hopefully mine is finished now and I can look forwards to the future."
Swiss international Philippe Senderos also made his comeback from a shoulder injury he sustained during the World Cup, and like Clichy he now has fierce competition to negotiate before reclaiming his place in the starting XI.
William Gallas and Kolo Toure look likely to be Wenger's first choice pairing in central defence, whilst Johan Djourou has also caught the eye this season, but Senderos is determined to win his manager's trust as quickly as possible after a frustrating summer.
"It is always hard to be injured and especially more so after the World Cup when you want to start well with your team and do a good pre-season," said Senderos.
"That has not been the case for me and I have had to work with the fitness coach.
"You need some games before you can come back into the first team, so hopefully over the next couple of weeks I can get some more.
"I will be training as hard as I can to fight for my place as soon as possible."
Both Clichy and Senderos played their part in a 2-1 win over Hammers reserves on Tuesday, and Arsenal's second string coach Neil Banfield expressed his delight that the pair had made a successful return to action for the London side.
"Their attitude is first class and they've both done ever so well tonight," said Banfield.
"I think they needed the game and there's another one coming up for them in a couple of weeks.
"They're well on the road to full recovery now though which is always good to see when someone gets a nasty injury.
"It was set down by the physiotherapist, the rehabilitation team and the manager that we could only give Gael 45 minutes.
"He wanted to play 60 but unfortunately we've had to say no.
"We said from the word go that Philippe would play 90 minutes and we were confident he'd get through it, which he did.
"At the end he was breathing a little heavily but that's to be expected. He needs games like that to get himself back in the first-team squad."