He was the captain before Cesc Fabregas. He was the add-on in the sale of a certain left back to Chelsea. He was seen crying on the pitch at St. Andrews. He has reinvigorated himself after Thomas Vermaelen joined Arsenal and seeing the back of Kolo Toure. He is a fixture in the French national side. He has always been out for long spells with various injuries every season since joining Arsenal. He is William Gallas.
Now, we all know that his current contract does not run beyond summer of 2010. At the tender age of 32, he is at the peak, maturing and golden age of a central defender. After the lesson learned with Flamini, I’m pretty sure Mr. Wenger has made his move early to try and secure him at least for another season. However, up till March there has been no confirmation of Gallas extending his contract, whereas so many others of him colleagues have tied up their services with Arsenal at least for a couple more years. AS Roma are just one of the many clubs which are closely following this proceedings.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record but Gallas is not one of my favourite players. His antics on and off the pitch 2 seasons ago when he was still captain of the club is nothing short of shambolic. As the anointed leader of the club, he should have acted in a more orderly fashion and not orchestrate a sit-down when we’ve just lost a player due to broken leg and have just lost 2 points at the final minutes of the game.
However, it is a mark of a great player with great character that he buckled down and worked his way back to his best in spite of all that. Emmanuel Eboue may well be his greatest fan after his own fantastic turnaround. Whether it is the departure of Toure or the arrival of Vermaelen or maybe both, but Gallas has flourished this season in the partnership with the Belgian. His form this season is reminiscence of the player Wenger coveted when he was one of the stars of Chelsea’s league winning side. His pace may have slowed down but his reading and tackling are as sharp as ever. His last minute tackle on N’Gog at the Grove against Liverpool is just one of the many highlights of his season so far.
If he does choose to finish his contract and then pack his bags to leave for a new challenge, it would be a big miss. Gallas definitely still have at least 2 more good years in him for top flight football. His combination with Vermaelen is more like the sweeper/stopper combo that Germany employed to good effect during the Euro’96. What we have on the bench does not reassure us of the same level of performance that Gallas could offer. Johann Djourou remains the best bet but has not played often enough or consistently enough to be judged as a long term cover. Gallas’ decision will decide whether Wenger splashes the cash in the summer. It would be a real miracle should Wenger be able to hit 2 for 2 in terms of signing great defenders in consecutive seasons.
If I was the manager, I would like to tie Gallas up for at least another 2 seasons. One for him to service the club to the maximum in terms of playing time and the second to allow a slow replacement period for his successor. During these times, a new and young central defender could be added to the pack to blood him in. But then again, I’m not Wenger and the final call lies with the great Professor.