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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Arsenal’s season has been thrown into jeopardy by the loss of Eduardo to a horrific injury, but that may be only the start of their problems. The loss of William Gallas to a disturbing and hysterical breakdown may be even more costly. Eduardo, as good as he was, was just a player. Gallas is supposed to be the captain, the figurehead of the football team and a leader of men. This weekend proved that he is not fit for such a responsibility.

Arsene Wenger is as wise a man as you will find in football, but it is now apparent that his decision to award the captaincy to the French defender was a hideous error of judgement. Captains do not run away when last minute penalties are awarded against their team. They do not react to goals by kicking advertising hoardings to pieces and they certainly do not burst into tears on the final whistle. Granted, everyone was upset by the terrible injury to Eduardo, but it is no excuse for this. Gallas is 30 years old, but his behaviour on Saturday indicated that his mental age is significantly lower. If your six year old son exploded like that in a park game, you’d be disappointed in him. For a professional athlete to behave so appallingly is beyond contempt.

Can you imagine John Terry bawling his eyes out like that? Absolutely not. Terry may be a serial complainer, but at least he plays like a man. Terry watched Petr Cech’s skull cave in at Reading last season, then saw his replacement Carlo Cudicini carried from the pitch on a stretcher an hour later. Did he run around screaming and booting Playstation adverts? Nope. He calmly rallied his troops, got in goal himself and helped Chelsea to hold out for a unlikely 1-0 win. Cech nearly died in brain surgery that night and, without wanting to diminish the seriousness of Eduardo’s injury, the situation at The Madjeski Stadium looked significantly bleaker than a badly broken leg. That’s the time for leadership, not hysteria. Likewise, when things are going against Liverpool, Steven Gerrard chooses to try the audacious, the impossible, anything to bring his team back into the ascendancy. It doesn’t always work, but it’s considerably more constructive than throwing a tantrum.

Worryingly for Arsenal fans, there are deep chasms appearing in their side now. With the score at 2-1, Emmanuel Adebayor had a perfect opportunity to provide an open goal for his strike partner Nicolas Bendtner, but instead of unselfishly laying the ball off, he chose to shoot and missed. Bendtner was furious and with some justification. Clearly, something is rotten in the state of their relationship. Where is their captain when he is needed? Oh, he’s over there on the sidelines, pretending to be the Incredible Hulk.

Arsenal’s players are young and they need guidance on the pitch but how can they look respectfully towards Gallas now? Men are curiously tribal creatures, always looking either for supremacy, or for an alpha male to follow. Gallas may have been designated as the leader by Wenger, but consciously or not, every man in the dressing room will now know that he is no longer worthy of the label.

Respect is everything, especially at this stage of the season. Imagine yourself on John Terry’s team, knowing that if nothing could shake him, then nothing could shake you. You’d follow him to the gates of hell. The only place Arsenal will follow Gallas to is second place in the table. Wenger must act now.