Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free Willy From all the Criticism

Most of you know I'm a Gooner, but I usually try to keep my bias off the screen, unless I'm busy haranguing Arsenal for playing pretty with no substance.

Like many footie fans out there, I was horrified by Eduardo's injury during the Gunners' match with Birmingham City on Saturday. And like many, I passed through several stages of outrage, shock and even an apologist point of view in regard to Martin Taylor, guilty of being too slow in imposing his will upon the Brazilian.
Yes, we all know Taylor didn't mean to do him such harm, and yes, Arsene Wenger's post-match comments were completely unwarranted. And I can see both sides of it: if you're not a team with comparable ability, you must make a statement early in the match; however, just because you break a guys' leg by accident because you're clumsy or too slow doesn't completely absolve you, simply because of the consequences.

But when you couple the brouhaha over this incident with Arsenal captain William Gallas' childish tantrum towards the end of the game, I think the media and pundits do themselves little justice in applying their own tacit set of rules. Just as there's a way to tackle and a way to accept the dangers of the English game, apparently there's a way to be a skipper, and only one way.

Was Gallas immature and stupid to do such a thing? Yes. Does that mean he's the wrong choice for Arsenal captain? Not necessarily.

I did have a major problem with Willy going nuts at Gael Clichy; that is something that needs to happen behind closed doors. However, so what if he pouted like a little kid and lashed out in petulance? I'd rather have a skipper like that, obviously distraught over a perceived injustice, but also feeling like Eduardo suffered his horrible injury for naught. A broken leg and dislocated ankle can never made up for with a win, that's for sure. But Gallas' angry, uncontrollable reaction embodied the desperation of it all.

Arsenal can rue a bevy of chances that would've closed the game down shortly after Birmingham City went down to ten men, and perhaps that's where the lack of experience and callow youth come into play.

Cesc Fabregas, the dynamic midfielder who became an Arsenal regular at 17, never looked more frightened and childlike than when he first stood over Eduardo and implored the physios to come out as quickly as possible. Emmanuel Adebayor quickly went over to the other side of the pitch so as not to see the injury and Flamini claims he can't get the image out of his head.

They're kids, not only in age, but in emotional maturity, as we've seen from William Gallas. Would he be a better captain if he embodied the stoic professionalism the English love their captains to exemplify? Is he less of a lion-heart than John Terry or Steven Gerrard? I've seen John Terry attempt to grab a card out of a ref's hand and Steven Gerrard sneer insolently at Rafa Benitez when substituted (although most substitutions evoke similar reactions from most Reds fans). What's the difference?

So, as a Gooner, I have to say Gallas' display embarassed me a little, a bit like Arsene Wenger's inability to lose graciously, and the ego-clash among the two remaining strikers, Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner. But am I embarassed by his emotion? Not one bit.

Gallas plays captain outrageous in show that ill suits an Arsenal leader [Times Online]


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