It’s been a topsy turvy couple of weeks for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. After some disappointing results they went and beat Man Utd in the league and saw their kids again run riot in the cup, before sliding back downhill with another league defeat – making it four already this season – to Aston Villa.
This inconsistency has seen Arsenal fans seriously question his status as manager for the first time that i can remember, and now of course he has lost Sagna and Walcott, two important players, to lengthy injuries. Now I for one think that Wenger has had far more ups than downs overall in his time at the Gunners, and though this has undoubtedly been a rough patch, they would be absolutely stupid to let him go.
Unfortunately though, something else has just upset the apple cart even further, and that something is William Gallas, who has opened his mouth inappropriately again, which seems to be something of a habit for him. I’m sure we all remember his ridiculous threat to sabotage his own team when he was unhappy at Chelsea, and this time his words are less shocking but just as thoughtless and disturbing for his clubs’ fans.
Gallas has said that Arsenal “are not brave enough in battle” and implied that the London club does not have what it takes to win the Premier League this year. Further to this he suggested that a team mate had insulted other members of the squad, and while he didn’t reveal the name of the player, he did say that it occurred during an attacking phase of the game and the player is six years younger than him – i’m not going to do the maths but that narrows it down a bit I reckon.
So Wenger, at a time when his team really needed to pull together and fight for one another, create a bond that allows them to perform consistently, and establish a winning positive mentality at the Emirates, has in fact seen Gallas, his chosen captain no less, launch a fairly scathing attack on the squad itself, and almost certainly cause a lot of trouble within the club. Obviously this is not great news for Arsenal fans, and Wenger will certainly come under even more pressure now.
However, apart from choosing an incredibly unsuitable captain (but still, who else has the years to challenge him, when a captain is often a senior player?), I don’t think there is any blame at all to be laid on Wenger. Quite the opposite in fact, considering he himself had a bit of an outburst just the other week, which drew criticism, but was much more positive for Arsenal. After one of the Stoke players questioned his sides commitment, Wenger came out firing in defence of his squad, and assuring the world that he had full faith in the ability and character of his players.
He did overstep the line a little when he suggested that the Stoke players had deliberately tried to hurt his own, but from inside the Arsenal camp, that impassioned outcry from the usually cool and calm Frenchman would have been a huge moral boost. To have such definitive and public backing as a player always feels good. And this is what makes Wenger such a great manager: his passion.
He shows great passion in many ways throughout his work – the passion to stick to the way of playing that he believes in, the passion that drives him to find and nurture young talent so ferouciously and the passion to say what he thinks, regardless of the consequences, in support of his team. Make no mistake, Wenger knew what he said would draw criticism, but he also knew it would both boost his players’ self esteem and deflect attention off them, allowing them to re-focus on the football, instead of enduring criticism.
And this is why Gallas’ traitorous words come as such a blow. Not only is Gallas the man who he had entrusted as his captain, but his words are in direct contradiction to the message that he himself sent out. And while Wenger was determined to try and build the squad morale and keep them together as a unit, it seems almost as though Gallas is determined to drive the squad apart, to criticise them and knock them down.
Wenger will have a big job to contain this situation without being forced to make some major changes in his squad, and I will be very surprised if Gallas remains after the transfer window closes in January. But he has an even bigger task now to deliver a trophy this season, which obviously is the ultimate goal for himself, and for every Arsenal fan. And this is the really confusing part. Because Gallas also insisted that he “[has] to win something” this year, “Arsenal has to win something”.
Yet in insisting that the club must take some silverware, Gallas has, in my opinion, put an end to the slim hopes they still held. Four defeats already in the league and patchy Champions League form meant that the kids were looking most likely to add to the trophy cabinet, but as in previous years, it is likely they will fall when they face a top team’s first team, like they did against Chelsea last season. And now that he has come out with this outrageously idiotic criticism, the club will really struggle to all pull together quickly enough to recover their league form and put in a realistic challenge for the Premier League.
Which is a real shame, because I love watching Arsenal play, and out of the ‘big four’ I woul rather see them win it than anyone, because of the way they play the game. They seem at times to be playing ideal football in an unideal world, and so if they were to win it might suggest that the world is shifting toward the other end of the spectrum. As it is, Gallas has upset the relations of the squad, and so the fluidity and confident interactions of the Arsenal players on the pitch could well be fractured too.
I for one hope that Wenger’s passion emerges once more and Gallas is banished as he deserves to be, and that the team kick on without him and take some silverware this season (not the FA Cup, that’s Everton’s!). If anyone is a coward, it is Gallas himself, as it is easy to come out and criticise, but it is far harder to actually do something toward solving a problem.
If Gallas truly wanted to win things at Arsenal, he would have been better off going about it quietly, going about the dressing room and talking to his team mates. He is their captain and it should be he who inspires them. It is his example they should follow and so he should stand up and be brave himself. If he thought there were problems, he and Wenger should have worked things out peacefully within the squad. As it is the Guns are pointing inwards at the moment, and Wenger very much needs to turn things around if Arsenal are to salvage their season, and traitors should not be allowed in the camp.