Archive for November 22nd, 2008

It’s easy to captain a side that is winning

1 comment November 22nd, 2008

So, Gallas is all but gone.  But it didn’t always look as if it would end this way.

After the 2-2 draw against Man Utd in November 2007, I wrote:

“William Gallas put in an outstanding captain’s performance. Not only was he solid at the back, but he found himself way up the field in stoppage time and scored one of the many crucial goals that have littered his career. His “never say die” attitude will be crucial if Arsenal are to win anything this season.”

And it wasn’t just me raving about the new skipper.  Kolo Toure claimed at one stage that Gallas would rank alongside Vieira and Adams:

“William gives everything for the Club.  Both on and off the pitch, William is a really good captain. He is loud in the dressing room and he has a big heart. Everything he says and does is for the team and the Club. That is the most important quality in a captain.  William seems to enjoy the responsibility. He is a really mature player, he has played in a World Cup Final and he is 30. Age and experience really helps as a captain. He leads by example. 
When Titi was here, he was outstanding, Patrick was strong and Tony as well. I have played under some fantastic captains and you just follow them.  I think he deserves to be mentioned among those names as captain because he is such a strong figure. He has great maturity in a really young team so that’s so important.  The young players, when he says something, they really listen to him because they respect him.”

And, of course, there’s Arsene Wenger, who after a Gallas goal helped us defeat Chelsea, said:

“I feel he pops up when you need it, when you want it, and he’s the leader – that’s the best definition of a leader, when you need it you show the example and he did that. I believe as well that Arsenal is a special club where it takes sometimes a few months to be penetrated by the spirit of the Club. I think William this season has taken that completely on board, and he’s completely the leader because he represents how we want to behave.”

In the light of events of the recent days, those words seem laughable.  But there’s no point in being revisionist about it: there was a time when the experiment of Gallas’ captaincy looked like it might just pay off.

But that was a very different Arsenal.  It was an Arsenal which had leadership in other areas.  On the pitch it had the drive and passion of Mathieu Flamini, an inspired Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor, as well as the experience of Jens Lehmann and Gilberto Silva in reserve.  Furthermore, and in part as a result of the aforementioned factors, this was an Arsenal side which was winning.

Captaining a successful side is not difficult.  It is when things go wrong that a skipper is put to the test.  In the face of adversity, true leaders emerge.  But infamously at Birmingham, and on countless troublesome occasions since, Gallas has crumbled.

What this young side needed was a veteran who could stand up against and stem the tide of anxiety, harnessing the arrogance of excellence to continue to perform at an elite level when everything was going against the team.  We needed someone who the players collectively admired and respected – whose disapproval they feared and appreciation sought in equal measure.  It may sound like I’m asking for someone superhuman, but then this is Arsenal Football Club.  We are one of the world’s top football teams, and have had some truly inspirational captains throughout our history, particularly of late.  Now, at a time when we require that kind of leadership more than ever, Gallas has come up short.

That is not his fault.  I don’t doubt that he has done his best as captain.  But without wanting to revert to cliché, he is simply not a ‘natural leader’.  His recent comments have destabilised the dressing room and presumably left a lot of the players feeling they are unable to trust the man who is supposed to be their figurehead.  A fresh approach is neccessary, and removing the armband from Gallas is the first part of that.  I’m glad Arsene has finally done what was so patently required: in a similar situation, Alex Ferguson released Roy Keane.  For our manager, it’s been comparatively easy: Gallas is no Roy Keane.

Whether or not Gallas has any kind of future at the club remains to be seen.  As far as the captaincy goes, Manuel Almunia is expected to wear the armband today, whilst the trio of Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, and Kolo Toure remain the front-runners to hold the position in the long-term.  Toure would be the obvious choice were it not the for the fact that he has been out of the side of late.  I don’t expect Arsene to make any decision public until next week at the very earliest, though it will certainly be fascinating to hear his thoughts on the matter in his post-match interview.

The list of first-team players we have missing is quite extraordinary: Senderos and Traore (of course), Gallas (similarly of our own volition), Sagna, Eboue, Toure, Fabregas, Rosicky, Eduardo, and Walcott.  On top of that, there are rumours that Emmanuel Adebayor aggravated an ankle problem representing Togo in the week and is not available for selection.

Taking that into consideration, there could well be starts for the likes of Johan Djourou, Alex Song, Gavin Hoyte, and Aaron Ramsey.  It’s going to be an incredibly young side whoever plays.  However, the axeing of Gallas as skipper does seem to have had a exorcising feel on the club.  The flames are definitely doing their best to claim our season, but we must aim to rise, phoenix-like, out of this disarray and re-establish some pride, if nothing else.

I spoke earlier about true leaders emerging in great adversity.  Today is a day for someone to stand up and be counted.  Let’s hope eleven men in red-and-white do that today.

Search Gunnerblog

Get your Gunnerblog t-shirts now!

get regular updates from GS with twitter

Top Gunn

Cesc Fabregas
The man in form.

    Retro Arsenal T-Shirts from - Bringing Back The Good Old Days!: Click Here!

Latest Posts

Sponsored Links


November 2008
« Oct   Dec »

Posts by Month

Most Recent Posts

Posts by Category


Powered By

eXTReMe Tracker