Yes, he of the 10,000 mile death-stare has gone to play 'abroad' [as Sol thinks at least] at Portsmouth. It does seem a bit odd that Arsene so hastily shipped him off after Ralph was within days of a return to the first team after a year on the sidelines. One can only conclude that Arsene thinks that he'll never be the player he was before the injury, or that in keeping Ralph he could impede the development of Justin Hoyte and Eboue.
The latter would seem to be the case given some of Arsene's recent comments. Indeed it seems incredible that Justin has gone from a player who many thought had no real future at the club, to perhaps becoming our first choice right back. Whilst Eboue undoubtedly has the edge on Justin in terms of attacking flair, he remains painfully suspect at the back. Like Gael, he too often lets the ball float over his head to players on the wing behind him, or lets players behind him cut in to score. Moreover, his theatrics are becoming an embarrasment to the club. Arsene has publicly voiced his displeasure at Eboue's diving and play-acting, and even his team-mates seemed to give him short-shrift during his confrontations in the Spud derby.
Could Justin, therefore, be first choice right back? Perhaps. He has definitely shown signs of improvement over recent weeks - including a very Lauren-esque death stare against Tugay in the Blackburn match last week -but he struggles when getting forward.
A combination of Justin and Eboue's plus points would therefore possibly create an ideal right-back; individually, neither of them are anywhere near the finished article. Personally, I would have liked Arsene to have retained Lauren to oversee Justin and Manu's development for the rest of the season at least. I'd definitely have preferred Lauren's experience for a few more months than the paltry sum we'll receive from Portsmouth.
The question remains therefore: will Justin or Manu really make the grade? And how long should we wait until we find out. Similar questions could be asked about the ability of Clichy to really become a permanent replacement for Cashley. I do worry that, at least at present, we have 3 full-backs who would all be excellent cover, but don't warrant starting positions. Could a case be made for recalling Kerry Gilbert, or does his future lie elsewhere? Hopefully, they'll all prove me wrong.
To finish, a picture that says everything about Lauren's commitment to the Arsenal. Goonerboy, obviously, does not condone violence on the football pitch. But United? at OT? That game, along with the 0-0 v madrid recently, were surely two of the greatest 0-0s of all time. It was worth the fines and suspensions. Thanks and so long Ralphy.