Gallas And Campbell – Arsene’s Age Old Problem
This weekend will be an interesting one for Chelsea and Manchester United. Arsenal could be top by the time the pair kick-off on Sunday, United will be totally unsure as to which Liverpool side will turn up – I’m not even sure Benitez would be able to say. One that is demotivated by their exit from the Europa League or one that is totally motivated by a win over Lille and the requirement for three points to keep their faint hopes of European football for next season alive.
Quite how Chelsea react is another matter; it was a crushing defeat last night. Penalties denied but temperamentally, they were found wanting, not just in Drogba’s sending off but also their post-match comments. The Champions League is a competition which has become something of a Holy Grail for them, vindication in their minds of the ‘investment’ policy of their owner; every failure at no matter what stage, chips away at their sense of self-worth. Add into that mix the table being topped by a team whom they have comprehensively beaten twice this season and questions must arise in their mind about whether they can win the title or not. Unfortunately, if you had to choose two opponents to play in your next two games, Blackburn and Portsmouth would be fairly high up that list.
Arsene’s mind may be wandering this week in the absence of a match, concentrating on summer transfer activity if all of the reports are to be believed. He’s apparently got his Chamakh for nothing, a ‘wonderkid’ from Ajax and still to sort out William Gallas before he even starts fending off the interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid in Cesc.
The situation around Gallas – and by extension, Sol Campbell – goes to the core of Wenger’s philosophy about the squad. He has struck a balance between youth and experience, a number of the younger members of the squad are now experienced thanks to his policy of investing and believing in them.
Gallas has been outstanding this season, his partnership with Vermaelen is probably the most consistent in the Premier League. Their styles compliment each other and they are outright defenders, not converted midfielders, who have excellent positional sense. It is apparent that they trust each other on the pitch, more than Gallas did with Toure, and have confidence that each is more than capable of doing their job.
Yet Gallas is of the ‘age’. The age where Wenger is not prepared to commit more than a year at a time on a rolling basis. An age where the player realises that his career is starting to head down the hill to retirement. He may view this as his last chance to sign a contract which earns him a big pay day. Whether that is with Arsenal on an annual basis or with someone else for a longer term is another matter. Wenger obviously thinks he has much to contribute, rumours of a two-year deal would seem to indicate that.
In general terms, Wenger has pretty much been spot on with the older players. Bergkamp contributed much during his time of rolling deals; others have left and found the grass not to be greener. Two who highlight the issue most keenly are Pires and Gilberto Silva. Both have had prolonged careers after leaving, Pires injury-interrupted spell in Spain should not disguise the fact that he remained an influential player. Did Wenger let him go too soon? A subjective matter but I would suggest, yes, is the answer. Likewise Gilberto’s departure proved costly when combined with Diarra and Flamini going, allied to injuries elsewhere. Hindsight is a wonderful thing upon which to base analysis.
There is depth a centre back, with loan experience gained and injury recovery taking place. However, the knowledge that Campbell and Gallas have is not easily replaced. Should Wenger let them both go? Would either or both be happy with a bit-part role, focussing primarily on nuturing future generations. For Campbell, the answer would presumably be more readily, yes. He is at the tail end of his career, one more season in the top flight at most. He has made no secret of his desire to coach so perhaps that is part of Wenger’s thinking.
Gallas seems unlikely to be happy with that. He has several seasons left in him and has proven this year that he is more than capable of delivering high quality performances on a consistent basis. Should Arsene rethink his strategy in this area or review on a case-by-case basis. I hope that his thinking is not clouding by the current vogue term in football, resale value. It is negligible for over-30s; this should not enter the equation at Arsenal because the club is financially secure enough to place a higher value on experience than any monetary estimate.
I suspect it unlikely that both with retained. Djourou’s form upon his return to fitness is the unknown in this but his promise was such that high hopes should be realised. Others such as Nordtvedt, having been in the Bundesliga for a season, could start to feature as well next season. More will become apparent over the summer months.
Posted on March 17, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Sol Campbell, Transfer Gossip, William Gallas. Bookmark the permalink. 162 Comments.