GALLAS STRIPPED OF CAPTAINCY
Gallas – no longer captain.
William Gallas’ future at Arsenal has been thrown into doubt following reports from France that he has been stripped of the captaincy and dropped for the trip to Manchester City.
The 31-year-old centre-back has revealed rifts in the Gunners dressing room, a blazing row during the interval of the 4-4 draw with rivals Tottenham and a problem with an unnamed team-mate unsettling Arsene Wenger’s squad.
Wenger had to decide whether to give Gallas the armband at Eastlands, with the website of respected magazine France Football this evening suggesting the defender has lost it and is not travelling for the City clash.
Manuel Almunia and Gael Clichy have been billed as alternatives this weekend, as Cesc Fabregas is suspended and Kolo Toure injured.
Former Arsenal full-back Nigel Winterburn believes changing the captaincy would place Gallas’ future in doubt.
“If he takes the captaincy away he’s almost saying he doesn’t trust him as a player and then maybe he shouldn’t be playing within the team,” said Winterburn on Sky Sports News.
“It shows how disappointed Arsene Wenger is. He must be seriously hurt to take the captaincy away. If he does not travel it could be the end of him at Arsenal.”
Gallas has been quoted in the Evening Standard as being open to an eventual return to France for the final stages of his career, which adds fuel to questions of his long-term commitment to Arsenal.
He said: “It’s true that I’d like to return to France for one or perhaps two seasons to finish my career.”
Gallas has caused a stir in France as well this week with his autobiography that reports unrest in the France camp during their disastrous Euro 2008 finals, singling out a player who he felt was disrespecting older members of the squad.
It led to a training-ground confrontation between the pair.
Gallas wrote: “I was also 20 years old once. I would never have allowed myself to speak in this tone to a footballer who was older than me.”
He added: “The youngsters from the Euros seem cheeky, very sure of themselves. They think they know it all, but they don’t know anything.
“Faced with his contempt, I raised my voice. The young player said: ‘Lower your voice, speak less loudly.’
“I replied: ‘How are you speaking to me? Who do you think you are? You are only 20 years old. I am not your friend.’
“He said: ‘Me neither, I am not your friend.”‘
Curiously, Arsenal and France team-mate Samir Nasri was 20 during the finals in Austria and Switzerland.
Wenger himself has an alternative for the role of the skipper, insisting the game is too fast for one person to take sole responsibility on the field.
“It’s so quick everywhere, there is less time for one person to lead the team,” said Wenger. “You need more shared leadership on the pitch.”
Before retaining his captain, Wenger reviewed Gallas’ role as skipper at the end of last season following his infamous tantrum at Birmingham where he was bizarrely at the other end of the pitch in protest when James McFadden scored a last-gasp penalty.
Drawing at St Andrews put a huge dent in Arsenal’s title hopes, and this season they have already lost four Barclays Premier League games.
Gallas found himself in the headlines again when he was pictured with a cigarette on a night out, although he also had his leadership skills praised by pundits during the recent win over Manchester United.
Wenger’s attitude appears to contrast to Gallas’ – he is determined not to look backwards following defeat against Aston Villa last weekend.
“Every morning when you get up, you have to say that whatever happened yesterday is over, and today I want to be the best,” he said on Arsenal TV Online.
“That is the only basic attitude that you can be successful with in top-level sport. It means yesterday is over and you have a chance today – that is where we stand at the moment.
“It was a massive disappointment when you are outplayed at home like we were (against Villa). Top-level sport is how you respond.”
Wenger, determined to bounce back, added: “I enjoy the fight. If you don’t enjoy the fight you don’t last in this job.
“I feel there is potential in the team and no consistency. We have to, in an intelligent way, get that potential out of the team and transform it into consistency.”
Robin van Persie returns from suspension for the City clash.
“He had a good training session,” said Wenger.
Gallas claims a 25-year-old in the squad has had a disruptive influence on the dressing room, putting Van Persie, Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Eboue in the frame.