Losing Senderos is in some ways actually sadder to me than losing to Fulham. Fulham was a one off failure, something that can be fixed, but losing Senderos is an admission of a complete and utter failure by Arsenal.
I’m just sitting here kicking through the ashes of Senderos’ Arsenal career and wondering where it all went wrong. He was the starting center half in 05/06 and had formed a record breaking partnership with Kolo Toure — one in which the team went 10 Champions League matches without conceding a goal. Their record breaking run was not against teams like FC Twente, or Fulham, it was against the Real Madrids of the world. That summer, he also played an integral part in the Swiss team’s surprise run in the World Cup, again keeping record breaking clean sheets along the way.
And then, out went Martin Keown and in came William Gallas. I firmly believe that the loss of Keown was the first blow to the end of Senderos’ Arsenal career. But you can’t really just point to that, because I also think that Gallas destabilized the young man when he came in to the squad.
Keown was the last of the Arsenal old-school: a tough, big, stopper, who knew how to attack the ball on defense. These just also happen to be Senderos’ best qualities. Is it just coincidence that *literally* as soon as Keown left the squad the Arsenal defense went to pot? The year after Keown’s departure was marred by defensive inconsistencies, an inability to defend in the air, an inability to defend off the corners, and Arsenal finished a mere lasagna away from 5th place in the league. Since then, things have not been right defensively for Arsenal. Last year they fixed the corners and to some degree the aerial problems and immediately became susceptible to the long ball. The point here is that there is something clearly very wrong with the defensive situation at Arsenal. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but since Keown left and Gallas came in both Arsenal and Senderos have struggled defensively.
At the time that Gallas came in to Arsenal the blogosphere was all a twitter that Arsenal had replaced their want away left back with a ready-made international. I also remember reading the reports leading up to that swap that Gallas’ main complaint was that he wanted to play in center-back so I publicly wondered how Gallas would fit in to the rotation, what with Senderos and Toure coming off a brilliant defensive season. I remember asking “would William Gallas be content with 3rd fiddle” and people like Arseblogger replied “no, he’ll play left back.” But note that we were all convinced that Senderos was the starter; that’s how good he was at the time.
And Gallas never did play left back, not really. What he did instead was started up the pouty-ness, the sniping, the demanding to be played in the center of defense and the complaints any time he had to play left back. I remember that I thought he would have a deleterious effect on Arsenal’s defensive stability and I was unanimously shouted down: Gallas was seen by everyone as a great defender and certainly better than Senderos, because Senderos had started to make a few mistakes.
What’s truly incomprehensible is that somehow Senderos’ mistakes, which come against the likes of Drogba, are magnified by the fans while Gallas’ mistakes are given a pass. I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but Gallas makes mistakes too; against people like Elf Haargardderrnened who plays for a club that barely escaped relegation. In fact, Gallas makes mistakes all the damn time.
Plus, he’s just, well, there’s no other way to put it, William Gallas is an asshole. He’s the kind of guy who rips into his teammates after they make a tremendous recovery to clear the ball off the line and save a goal. He’s the kind of guy who believes that “leadership” is gathering the team at the center circle and “inspiring” them with wild eyed speeches like “we must show them that we are not AFRAID!!!” In short, he’s the kind of guy who tears down people around him in order to make himself look good. As soon as Gallas came in to the club it seemed that Senderos’ self confidence started to crumble. All it took was a slip up and a lambasting by ole Bill and Phil was shot through.
Maybe it was Keown’s departure that started the problems, but I am convinced that it was William Gallas who accelerated those problems. I have also become convinced that not only is Gallas a cancer on the club, but Gallas is a poor defender. I know it might seem odd, but the departure of Senderos seals the deal for me: I am sick of William Gallas.
I know that 3/4 of you will come in here to say “good riddance,” I’ve grown used to it… it doesn’t bother me any more. It doesn’t bother me because people who hate Senderos are irrational about it. They don’t marshal a single fact in their defense, they just simply say “well he’s rubbish.” Or “well he let in that goal at Liverpool.” And?? All defenders let in goals, all defenders make mistakes, if they didn’t they would never learn. And that’s where Arsenal failed Senderos. He’s 23 years old, he has at least 5 years before he’s at the top of his game, and Arsene didn’t give him a chance, the fans didn’t give him a chance. Arsenal failed Phil, let’s hope we don’t repeat that failure with his Swiss compatriot, Djourou.