Arsene Wenger has promised to wield the axe ahead of tomorrow’s match with Porto and though I agree with the sentiment completely, I believe his hands are tied and he won’t be able to do anything significant.
Pretty much every Arsenal fan knows that Gallas is the one player who most needs a “rest:” his performances have been shockingly poor both individually and as captain. You need look no further than the defensive scramble that let Hull score their second goal to see what I’m talking about. I know, it’s popular to say that Gallas is “short” (he’s 5’11″, a mere 3 inches shorter than Daniel Cousin) and that’s why he concedes goals from corners but that’s a load of crap. Mr. Shortymcshorterson wins headers on the offensive end all the time and he wins headers in defense all the time, in fact (and I know I’ll get stick for this) he’s a better aerial player than Kolo Toure by leaps and bounds.
No, Gallas’ problem isn’t the fact that he’s an inch shy of the 6′ mark. Gallas’ problem is that he’s a reactor and not a planner. Watch the replay of Hull’s second goal, it looks to me like Gallas doesn’t want to mark Cousin — so, he’s trying to get someone else to do it when the ball’s played in and “oops” he’s out of position and Cousin scores while Gallas is leaping helplessly behind the ball. Leaders who are reactors can be very valuable because they are capable of rapid change when needed but if they start panicking then that’s when they lose the plot. Unfortunately, Gallas has started panicking, he started the trend last year at the end of the Birmingham game and it’s continuing into this year as has happened now three times this season.
Gallas has to be dropped for the Porto match tomorrow and I would go a step further and strip him of the captaincy — make him earn it back, like I did in boot camp. Stripping Gallas of his captaincy would cause a massive disruption on the team but I think that’s exactly what’s needed right now; people fighting to be leader and let the guy with the biggest balls win it. It remains to be seen if Wenger is willing to risk the facade of harmony he’s built this season, after all, Arsene Wenger is not a reactor, he’s a planner.
More than just Gallas, there are a lot of players who looked pretty ordinary on Saturday; van Persie, Denilson and Cesc could all use a “rest” as well. So too Theo has to be running out of steam and could use a day or two off, but let’s face facts, who will the boss bring on if all 5 players are dropped? Jack Wilshere? Song? Silvestre? Nope. Nope. Nope.
Wilshere is hungry but there’s no way the boss is putting a 16 year old in the cauldron that is the Champions League, so Cesc will start there. Song is injured, as the link above shows, so that means Denilson will start there because the only other option is the 17 year old Welsh wunderkind Ramsey. Nasri is back (yay) and so we might see Theo come off the bench not because he did poorly but rather because he’s played, like, every day for the last month.
That leaves just van Persie and one of the two central defenders as viable options. Replacing van Persie with Bendtner or even Vela isn’t that hard a decision but I wonder does Arsene have the balls to replace Gallas? I don’t think he does. If anyone in the central defense gets a rest it will probably be Toure.
So, tomorrow is a bit hectic but I am going to have some time to catch the game. It’s live on Setanta at 11:30am local time which, as always, means a trip down to Doyle’s. Maybe I’ll see you down there? Until tomorrow.