By Chris Harris

Arsenal's past and future occupied the left-back spots at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Ashley Cole, who rose through the ranks at Highbury, was reunited with his former team-mates. Meanwhile, Gael Clichy continued to justify Arsène Wenger's belief that he is the long-term replacement for Chelsea's new England international.

"Gael is the answer, 100 per cent the answer," said Wenger. "When we lost Ashley Cole, we were thinking 'OK we have got Clichy, injured' but with a lot of potential.

"What he is doing now at the moment after being out for one year is quite amazing. He is handling it very well and he is getting stronger with every game."

Before this season, Clichy's first-team appearances were limited by Cole's consistency and a large dose of bad luck. When the England defender suffered a foot fracture last term, Clichy suffered an identical injury just weeks later.

Now the Frenchman has an opportunity to establish himself in the Arsenal first team. He will inevitably be compared to his predecessor but Wenger believes that will be a help, not a hindrance.

"It is a good challenge for him, because he will be compared to his model. He always said 'Ashley Cole is my model' and he will be compared to his model.

"Ashley is playing well and I am not surprised because we lost a player who is 26-years-old, the best age for a football player. But Gael has the potential [to be as good as Cole]."

11/2 - Wigan v Arsenal: Robin van Persie to score the first goal

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Chris Harris 12 Dec 2006