So the dust has finally settled on William Gallas’ ill judged outburst with Arsene Wengers decision to strip him of the captaincy and replace him with Cesc Fabregas immediately. Wenger had to make a big decision in the circumstances and whilst some people may think his choice of the midfielder as his new captain as a strange one, for me it seems the natural choice. Fabregas is clearly Arsenals best player, a wonderful footballer with a quick brain, a fantastic range of passing and desire to do his best for the Gunners, inspiring those around him and in the stands. When Fabregas plays well, so do Arsenal and giving him this responsibility may make his performances more consistent for the team as a whole. He now knows that he is the leader, the man who has to make the team tick, a chance to emulate his hero, Pepe Guardiola.
His age has nothing to do with it at all. So what if he’s 21, he’s played over 200 games for Arsenal since getting his chance in the 2004-2005 season and in my opinion if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. I’ve seen numerous opinions saying he won’t demand the same respect as some of his older teammates but that argument doesn’t hold water at all. Fabregas demands respect because of his ability and experience for the Gunners over the last 5 seasons and with a European Championship winners medal in his locker for Spain, it shows that he can step up to the job of stabilising Arsenal and help settle things down on and off the pitch for Wenger. By giving Fabregas the armband, Wenger is showing complete faith in the player and the man. He won’t care a jot what anyone says about his age and he has history on his side too.
George Graham famously raised eyebrows back in 1988 when he gave the 18 year old Tony Adams the captaincy because Graham recognised that that Adams would run through walls for the team, his colleagues and the fans, showing over the next 14 years what an inspired decision it was at the time. Did Arsenal struggle with Adams as captain? Of course they didn’t, 2 league titles in the next 3 years showed exactly what Graham believed Adams could bring to the side and how many Arsenal fans would not name Adams as the captain of their greatest ever side? Did Dixon, Winterburn, Bould, Keown or Smith throw their teddies out of the cot and show Adams disrespect? It never happened, they knew that making Adams captain was the best decision Graham could have made and he proved it time after time for the Gunners. They wanted to win trophies and having a captain of Adams’ passion drove them on.
Fabregas can galvanise the current side in the same way. There’s no doubt that Wenger will have been well aware of the precedent of installing a younger captain, perhaps looking back through history made his mind up, I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t have been aware of Adams’ age when he took over the armband and thought if it was good enough then, why not now. Saturdays game at Eastlands was always going to be a no win situation, Wengers post match interview saw him downbeat, reticent,even demoralised. No matter what he said, it wouldn’t have been good enough and he steered well clear of the situation or pouring more fuel on the fire that Gallas’ comments had set off.
He looked hurt and who wouldn’t, the comments from Gallas would have cut him to the quick more than most, knowing his right hand man believed that the team was so rudderless and lacking spine and ultimately pointing the finger toward the way the club is currently heading under his stewardship. So what if he had a book to publicise, so what if the interview was with the French media, Gallas should have kept his own council or at least spoken to Wenger privately about his concerns and worries. He had no right to undermine his manager in a such a way and pander to the critics. For a rudderless ship, sitting 5th in the Premiership, in to the Quarter Finals of the Carling Cup and one point away from the next round of the Champions League, they seem to be doing better than that. Yes, they’ve lost 5 games this season in the league, but whose to say the won’t finish in the top 4 and win a cup?
The phone-ins and text messaging services are beginning to fill up with people questioning Wengers position, a situation I find beyond ludicrous, the usual critics who wouldn’t know their way to the Emirates if you drew them a map. Several first team players are missing or only just coming back to match fitness and it does effect the sides balance, anyone can see that but once they’re all back and fit, who’s to say they won’t hit a run of 10-12 games winning everything they come across.
Neither Liverpool or Chelsea have had a blip yet, Manchester United haven’t ripped up any trees either so to write them off is crazy, there are 24 games to play, 72 points to fight for and I’ve yet to see a season won in November as any Newcastle United fan will point out to you. Let Fabregas settle in to the role of captain, let Gallas prove that he’s sorry and let the injuries clear up before anyone judges Arsene Wengers future at the Emirates. His record alone demands that doesn’t it? The promotion of Fabregas draws a line under the last week’s turmoil at the Emirates and I certainly wouldn’t bet on him dragging Arsenal up by their bootlaces as the season progresses.