Since the 2004/05 season we have witnessed two types of disappointments. First is the our ever extending trophy-less run, despite the fact that we have been extremely close on four separate occasions (Community Shield 2005, League Cup 2006, 2011 and, the most significant, Champions League 2006) only to end on the losing side with an identical scoreline – 2:1. The second disappointment is likely to have contributed to our lack of silverware – our armband has passed around too many arms in the previous 8 seasons.
The wandering destiny of our armband have caused people to make sour jokes about how we should have made Squillaci or Chamakh our captain in order to lose them ASAP. Here are the stories of our recent captains and this time it’s going to be about the most controversial of all of them and IT’S NOT Robin Van Persie.
Arsenal Fact File:
Name: William Gallas
Born: August 17, 1977, Asnieres-sur-Seine, France Asnières-sur-Seine
Position: Central defender, full-back
Previous Club(s): SM Caen, Olympique Marseille, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham (now without club)
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Joined Arsenal: September 1st, 2006
Left Arsenal: 2010
Total Appearances: 142
Total Goals: 17
Total Assists: 1
The switch from Highbury to the Emirates came after the season in which Arsenal managed to reach their first (and so far only) Champions’ League Final in club’s history. During the summer of 2006, a transfer saga that involved Ashley Cole and Chelsea took place. The English left full-back wanted to leave Arsenal in order to get more money for his services and at the time, there was only one club capable of offering enormous money for
mercenaries those who felt underpaid – Chelsea. At that very same time, a central defender William Gallas was not very satisfied with an offer given by Chelsea, nor with the full-back position at which he was used at Chelsea. Gallas’ displeasure with how Chelsea valued him was the missing link between Arsenal’s demands for Cole and Chelsea’s offer for him so at the very end of the summer transfer window of 2006 William Gallas and Ashley Cole swapped places with Arsenal also receiving 5 million pounds from Chelsea as well.
Controversies were all around Gallas during his whole spell at Arsenal. Firstly, he was accused by Chelsea for threats that he was going to score own goals if he was not allowed to leave. Then, he was given a No.10 shirt, the one that is usually given to the biggest footballing artist in the team and the one that was worn by Dennis Bergkamp.
One of the first matches in Gallas’ career with Arsenal was at Old Trafford against Manchester United. It was arguably one of the best performances tactically Arsenal have given in a trophy-less eight years and Gallas gave an excellent defensive performance playing as left full-back. Later, with the introduction of Gael Clichy, Gallas was switched to central defense alongside Kolo Toure. Despite the fact Arsenal won both matches against Manchester United (1:0, 2:1), it wasn’t the best of seasons for the North London club as the Gunners ended fourth due to a worse goal-difference than Liverpool, while the League Cup Final was lost to Chelsea. Two upsets at the hands of PSV Eindhoven and Blackburn Rovers in the Champions League and FA Cup respectively completed the first season at the Emirates and the second consecutive season for Arsenal without trophies. Gallas featured in 21 games.
Although everyone expected that Gilberto Silva, one of the finest people that ever wore the Arsenal shirt (or at least I got that impression), would take the armband from Thierry Henry who left for Barcelona, it was William Gallas that was surprisingly Wenger’s choice for captaincy in the 2007/08 season. That didn’t stop Arsenal from leading the title race for the biggest part of the season, but despite gaining an enormous 83 points, the Gunners led by captain Gallas fell 4 points short of eventual champions Manchester United and 2 points short of runners-up Chelsea. In the Champions League Arsenal knocked out reigning champions Milan with a brilliant 2:0 victory at the San Siro only to lose to Liverpool 5:3 on aggregate thanks to streak of missed chances and defensive mistakes. Heavy defeats in the FA Cup to Manchester United and the League Cup to the Spuds completed a season that was marked with the horrible injury of Eduardo da Silva at Birmingham. One of those unforgettable moments was the one when Gallas sat on the pitch when Birmingham scored a late equalizer thanks to one of those Clichy moments. Again, Gallas was rather prolific for defender – he scored the winner against Chelsea at Emirates and a late equalizer against Manchester United, scored a late opener against Wigan and started an amazing 10-man-come-back from two-goal-gap against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.
Gallas was still an Arsenal captain when the season 2008-09 started but due to his remarks about his team-mates, he was fined and stripped of captaincy by November in favour of Cesc Fabregas. His career wasn’t endangered just by his big mouth, but also by injuries that started attacking his knees. Arsenal secured another Champions League qualification but again failed to win a trophy.
In 2009-10, the last season of his contract, Gallas was paired with Thomas Vermaelen, a new signing from Ajax. Both defenders were rather prolific but our defending wasn’t at its best in big games. In one of those games Gallas’ career in Arsenal shirt was over – he got injured against his former club Chelsea and was ruled out for two months. He played a bit against Barcelona but after he was stretchered off the pitch, he never returned to the field as an Arsenal player. His contract negotiations with Arsenal broke down pretty much like his body and he was free to leave the club in the summer.
Thereafter, he managed to produce another shock by joining the Spuds and that’s how he became the first player to play for all three London clubs.
Anyway, when the Spuds won their first match on our home ground since 1993, Gallas wasn’t just one of the Spuds on the pitch – he was their captain. He kept his good form throughout the season and was given a two-year-contract. During those two years, injuries started to hit him again so he managed to collect just 36 appearances in two seasons – the same number he got in first season solely. After his contract expired, the Spuds decided not to renew it so Gallas is a free player now.
Conclusion: Arsenal fans tend to mention Gallas’ captaincy as one of the worst mistakes Wenger has made during this barren spell but the bizarre truth is, we made the best score in the league with Gallas as captain and came the closest to the title. When it comes to his performances on the pitch, in at least two victories against United he gave a brilliant performance and he relished playing big matches for us. Another bizarre thing is that he took over an armband from the player who was born exactly on the same day as he was – 17th August 1977 is the day when both Thierry Henry and William Gallas were born.
Still, he was the guy that talked too much for his own good and eventually completed the rounds on all the London clubs – The Bad (Chelsea), The Good (Arsenal) and The Ugly (Spuds). Now he is a free player and has a lot of time to think about his future, perhaps he is going to be much smarter before joining, what is likely to be, the last club in his career.