Before you start a football game there is always a good chance to win it, but we need massive commitment on Saturday. — Arsene Wenger after the loss to Aston Villa talking about today’s game against City.
Officially, nothing has happened: the lineup reported by The Beeb includes Gallas, the dot com is silent on the issue, and even The World’s Least Reliable Newspaper (I don’t link to The Sun because I find that paper to be vile and won’t generate a single click for them) is left making up quotes that they heard from “a close family member.” That said, this is exactly how I would expect Arsenal to handle this situation. It would be undignified of the club to strip Gallas of the captaincy for publicly humiliating his teammates by releasing press statements and then turn around and publicly humiliate Gallas by releasing a press statement. That’s the kind of thing that a classless organization like Chelsea would (did) do.
So, if he has been dropped (we’ll find out in about an hour) I would be surprised if the boss says anything about it other than a terse “this is an internal matter, we are dealing with the situation” type of statement.
I will admit that I have taken some cheap shots at Gallas the last few days, really it’s been a long time coming. As I said before, I felt like I needed to bite my tongue about the man and the player for this whole season and so in a sense it was a great relief to finally be able to just let it out.
After a few days distance from the whole thing I can say that some of what Gallas said was spot on, if it’s true. If there are players who feel like at the age of 22 they have arrived and don’t need to put in any more work, then they should be sorted out. If there are players who feel like they are equals with greats like Thierry Henry, then they too should be sorted — and by sorted I mean sold to also-rans like Tottenham. And, of course, there are players who need to show more fire in their belly — I’ve been saying that for a month!
The problems with Gallas’ statement are multiple though. First, is the problem that Gallas is one of those players who needs to show some passion and I don’t mean just yelling at his teammates, or throwing a temper tantrum ala the Birmingham protest. I mean he needs to be the one attacking the ball in the final third. He needs to be the one who is willing to risk injury to himself to claim the ball in the air and I think he hasn’t been willing to do that lately. Second, is, well, DON’T RIP THE GUYS TO THE PRESS, DUMMY.
I’ll even throw Gallas a bone — one of the things that Gallas probably doesn’t understand is that this generation isn’t like his generation. Growing up, I was never praised unless I did something extraordinary but this generation is radically different: they need constant praise (link to first article I found — it’s a well documented phenomena). Gallas’ authoritarian leadership style just doesn’t work well with people born after 1979. Growing up being told that they were all precious little snowflakes, constantly praised for just doing their job, treated equally, and having rules and ideas explained to them rather than forced on them shaped the way that they expect to be treated by their work place. You can’t scream at Clichy when he makes a mistake that costs Arsenal the game — if you do, you risk losing him forever. These young men need mentors, leaders who lead by example rather than authoritarian dictators who scream at you for every mistake you make. So, maybe Gallas didn’t understand that generational gap, his interview sure seems to indicate that he didn’t get it; wanting players to respect him just because he is older. That’s just not how it works any more.
That said, Arsenal gave Gallas every chance. The moment that will be iconic of the Gallas reign was the Birmingham Sit In. Universally condemned by everyone outside the club, Arsene Wenger protected him and explained away his behavior by saying that he is just a passionate player. Then, this year he’s caught out late smoking a stogie before a match, the boss again defended him. And those are just the highlights. After all the chances he’s gotten I can’t see how he would get away with this latest event.
What happens next is being speculated on wildly. T-Town Alex reports that L’Equipe is linking Gallas to Bordeaux. Some other blogs are speculating that he might have his contract terminated and become a free agent. Doing that would free up $160,000 a week in wages, which could be used to bring in Stephen Appiah. Or, Arsenal could loan him to a French side, or Arsenal could sell him on in January. I find the last option least likely since Gallas is such damaged goods right now. The most likely scenario is a loan or free agent situation… then he can re-join his mates at Stamford Bridge.
I’m sure we’ll all know more about Gallas’ situation at the club here over the next few days. Today, the team has to somehow put all this stuff behind them and come out to play. Citeh has been struggling as of late — since their 6-0 win at Pompey, they have gone L-L-D-W-L-L-L-D. Of course, on the other side teams have been licking their chops to play Arsenal lately as we have put in some very ordinary performances.
The good news is that defensively, Arsenal are actually a better away team than they are at home so far this season — conceding 10 goals at home and only 5 goals away. Add in the lift that sometimes happens when a team has a massive change (if Gallas is actually dropped — which the Beeb is now reporting Almunia as captain and Gallas being dropped) and we could see a real classic today.
To get there, though, “we need massive commitment” from these young lads. There is not doubt that there will be a strange lineup today, some kids may be drafted in to fill the gaps due to injury and big mouthedness. Those kids are going to have to be 111% committed to get a result against City at home. I know that they can do it: Arsenal are a machine, one cog breaks, you insert another. They all have the talent, they have the ability, and today they need to show that they have the desire.
There have been many pivotal moments this season but I think we’re reaching the pinnacle of pivotal moments today. The game that sets the course of the season? Maybe. Go out there and win it!
UP THE ARSE!