Thursday, January 27, 2022

Wenger to stick by Gallas. Is that the right thing for Arsenal?

I didn’t jump on the bandwagon last season to criticise William Gallas in his role as captain at Arsenal. His reaction to events, particularly in the ‘Eduardo injury’ game at Birmingham, led to widespread condemnation of him and his temperament.

I admired the way that manager Arsene Wenger stood by his captain at the time but fully expected him to relieve the French international of his duties for this season.

I was surprised to see therefore that Wenger has announced that William Gallas will remain as Arsenal’s club captain next season. He had said in April he was going to reconsider the position but has obviously decided that his captain deserves another chance.

His first season as captain was full of controversy but became infamous in that game at Birmingham. We all know how horrific the injury to Eduardo was and there is no doubt that the incident affected the mind set of many Arsenal players that day. Of course, that is when you need your leader to lead and Gallas was conspicuous by his absence in that role.

What transpired was that Gallas sat on the pitch after James McFadden scored a last-minute penalty to earn Birmingham a 2-2 draw. He stayed there until well after the game ended having stood in the other half of the pitch as the penalty was taken. He was then seen to kick an advertising board as he seemingly totally lost his composure at a time when the team needed him more than ever.

The two points dropped in that game reduced Arsenal’s then lead at the top of the Premier League to two points and many fans believed Gallas’ actions undermined Arsenal’s title challenge. In fact, the reaction to Gallas’ actions at the end and after the game were almost as heated and vociferous as that displayed in response to the tackle that caused the injury to Eduardo. There was a fairly vicious attack on Gallas’ personality by the media as a whole.

After the game at Birmingham, Arsenal won just two out of the remaining ten games as their hopes of a league and Champions League double crashed around their ears. Many reasons were put forward for the terrible loss of form at the end of the season. These included the lack of depth in the squad, the loss of form of Adebayor and Fabregas, the psychological effect that Eduardo’s injury had on the players and the inability of William Gallas to lead his men when they most needed him.

It is against this background that I was surprised to see Arsene Wenger say on the Arsenal club website, “If he (Gallas) plays, he will be captain. William will be the club captain.”

When he asked about the issue towards the end of last season Wenger replied: “I cannot answer that question at the moment. I want to analyse the situation after the season.”

It seems that his analysis has shown him that Gallas is the right man for the job. It is very rare that I disagree with decisions made by Arsene Wenger. I don’t much like him, but I have huge respect for him as a manager. Surely this would have been the right time for a change. Everyone would have understood, even Gallas himself. The season ended in such disarray at the Emirates that a change in the captaincy seemed inevitable and necessary.

Gallas has spoken to Arsenal TV about the situation. “You know I learnt a lot last season. You want to be the best captain and give good advice to your players, but sometimes you can make mistakes as well. This season I know what I’m going to do and I know I am ready to change my way of speaking to the players. We have to win something because the trophies are more important at the end of the season. Last season we were near to winning something, I hope this season it will be different.”

It is reassuring for Arsenal fans that William Gallas accepts that he made mistakes and that he says he has learned from them. After three trophy less seasons it is crucial that he has learned quickly and that he can lead his team to some sort of silverware this season.

I am all for giving people a second chance and Gallas did nothing so wrong or terrible that he should be denied such a chance, but I just feel that this is one decision that Arsene Wenger may have got wrong. I don’t think William Gallas is a bad person, a bad footballer or even necessarily a bad captain. I just think that this was the right time for a change.


Graham Fisher



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13 years ago

Wrong choice again Arsene…add to that no world class stopper, and we are back where we started last season

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