Archive for November 24th, 2008


Captain Fabregas, Gallas back in


I didn’t read a single opinion piece yesterday and it felt, well, it felt good. I did read all of your comments and I want to thank all of the readers who left comments yesterday and Saturday, I always read all of your remarks and enjoy each of your insights. But I stayed away from the Independents’, Suns, Beebs, Telegraphs, Arsenal.coms, Setantas, and Goal.coms, because I knew that it was just going to be a feeding frenzy by the press; blood is in the water after all.

One of the things that I noticed while scanning through the news stories this morning is that everyone thinks that they know what’s going on at Arsenal. Something is clearly going on, no doubt, but what exactly is happening is pure speculation.

The one story that we haven’t seen yet is speculation about why Wenger hasn’t bought big in the last five years. I have been very suspicious that Arsenal just don’t have the money that they keep claiming that they have. Whether there’s a drain on finances due to the Emirates, the huge payroll, or there’s some kind of dividend being payed, we just don’t know. The facts are very clear; Arsene Wenger has broken even or earned money in every transfer market for the last 5 years. Further, Wenger has admitted that he bid for Alonso (an experienced midfielder) and Chelsea have admitted that he bid for Malouda, but that both bids fell short and were not upped is telling. That behavior can’t just be explained away with Wenger’s insistence that he is pursuing a “youth” policy or that he doesn’t want to “pay over the odds.” There’s something going on, I suspect.

It seems I too can speculate with the best of them.

But instead of the finance story, there are dozens of stories about how Wenger is afraid of Gallas, how there are cliques in the dressing room, how they argue on and off the pitch, and the worst of all, how Wenger has lost the plot. The point of all these stories isn’t to really shed light on Arsenal, but rather just to draw you in. They take one quote and spin a yarn around it. Who really knows what’s going on in training? Arsene Wenger, and I trust him to make things right.

Which brings me to today’s press conference. Just a few minutes ago, Wenger announced that Cesc will be captain and Gallas will be included in the team. Time to drop the speculation over whether Cesc will make a good captain, we’ll see if he will or not. Last year I called for Gallas to be replaced by Cesc and I was roundly criticized so, despite my reservations this year, I have to admit that I see the quality in him. It’s a tough, tough time to take over as captain but, like President Obama, when you take over at such a pivotal time you will either pass with flying colors and be one of the greats or you will go down in flames.

Here’s hoping that Cesc is the former.

The very first thing I would do, if I was Cesc, is knock on Wenger’s door, close the door behind me, and tell Arsene Wenger to go out and buy an experienced midfield partner. I would not leave the room until I had a promise from him that he would buy that person. You all know that I want Stephen Appiah, he’s available right now and I think he would be magnificent for the job. But maybe Wenger has a January target, someone better, he needs to let Cesc know now.

The very next thing I would do, is I would squash the bullshit squabbling between RvP and Gallas — neither player is good enough to get away with this stupid bullshit and tear apart my beloved Arsenal. Wenger has stated that Gallas will be used for the remainder of his time at Arsenal saying:

William is a player that I rate and a man that I rate. I have a big respect for him. He was working as a captain in a very difficult media environment. He was under big pressure from the press. For me, the player is committed to the club and I think he can be stronger as a player because he took all the problems of the team to his heart. I think it can be a new start for him.

Given the fact that Wenger is determined to select Gallas (who is arguably the best defender on the team — I said ARGUABLY) Cesc’s second big challenge is going to be to support Wenger and Gallas in this. At least until the man can be moved on in January.

The last thing that Cesc is going to have to do is heal the wounds at the club. This is probably the most difficult task ahead because right now, the club and the fans are a club divided. If winning is the salve that heals all wounds then so be it, go out and get some wins. But I suspect that Cesc will need to do more than just win in order to keep this group together. He will need to put an arm around the shoulder of his teammates when they screw up, he will need to work a lot harder on the pitch than he has as of late, he will need to inspire his teammates, he will need to back his teammates up, and he will need to back Wenger up.

That’s what Cesc has got to do over the next few weeks. It’s a lot to ask any man at a healthy club, but it seems a superhuman task to ask a 21 year old at a club that is tanking games and in danger of losing their place in the Champions League.

Up next is Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League more on that tomorrow.


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