Friday 21 November ~
The team captain has a unique position in English football. They are required to be inspirational, dogged, “110 per cent” leaders who can galvanise a team. Unlike our European neighbours who are brought up on finesse, skill and winning the game of tactical chess, our fundamentals reside elsewhere. Instead it’s heart, tenacity and that bulldog spirit on which we pride ourselves. You need to look no further than the auditions held by Fabio Capello earlier this year to see how much emphasis is placed on the role of the skipper. Few things in football irk a fan more than a perceived lack of effort from a player; a captain represents something the rest of the team can look up to, a shining example, leading his team to glory.
William Gallas, however, doesn’t quite fit this image. He may wear his heart on his sleeve, but only when he wants to. If anything, he’s the antithesis of a captain – self-centered, unpredictable and not exactly leading from the front either. Perhaps imploding from within would be a more valid description.
It is clear Arsenal have some serious problems, and they go a lot deeper than Gallas’s temper tantrums, but it would be hard to find a better place to start. Since that fateful trip to St Andrew’s last February, which saw Gallas stage a bizarre sit-down protest as Arsenal dropped two points in the last seconds and meekly faded from the title race, the Gunners’ captain has become more and more volatile. While his comments may be born out of a strong desire to win, his repeated failure to keep his emotions in check means this team is without a leader when they need it most.
“I have to win something this year,” Gallas complained in the press today. "Arsenal has to win something. Another season without a trophy would be a kind of failure.” Something tells me that an ultimatum is the last thing that the Frenchman should be issuing to this fractured squad. Arsène Wenger faces one of his toughest challenges yet. Not only does he have to drag these squabbling kids back into line, he has to make a decision on Gallas’s position within the team. And a vote of no confidence from the boss could just be the thing to set off this temperamental ticking time-bomb. As part of his rant, Gallas claimed one of the most experienced members of the squad was being a disruptive influence “on and off the pitch”. Was he referring to himself? Dan Bryant