Arsenal v Spurs: Emirates prepares for return of ‘outcast’ William Gallas
The former Arsenal captain will be public enemy No1 when he returns for Saturday’s north London derby in a Tottenham shirt
WILLIAM Gallas will return to the Emirates in a Tottenham shirt on Saturday ready to face the wrath of fans and his former team-mates after crossing the north London divide.
The former Gunners’ captain will be the centre of attention in the north London derby after his summer switch to White Hart Lane saw him become only the fifth player to leave Arsenal and then play for Spurs.
However, it is not just the Arsenal fans who will be out to prove a point to Gallas, as his former team-mates revealed the Frenchman was an outcast in his final year at the club.
Gallas was stripped of the captaincy by Arsene Wenger in October 2008 after heavily criticising Arsenal’s younger players in the French media, saying they were “not being brave enough” to win big matches or trophies.
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While he continued to play for Arsenal for another 18 months, the row was not forgotten by his team-mates, in particular Samir Nasri who admitted this week that he didn’t even speak to Gallas during the defender’s final year at the Emirates.
“We don’t talk. We played one year at Arsenal without talking,” said Nasri, who fell out with Gallas while playing for France at Euro 2008.
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“There were other people who didn’t talk to him either. The collective cause was more important, though, and we got on with things.”
“People called me names after Euro 2008, but they have come to see the people I had problems with at the time went on to mess things up in South Africa [at the Word Cup].
“Respect has to be mutual. Just because I was a bit younger does not mean that I have to stay quiet and accept everything.”
Arsene Wenger admitted he was ‘surprised’ in August when Gallas, released as a free agent by the Gunners boss, chose to join Spurs rather than move back to France or join one of the Italian clubs interested in signing him.
“He has an exaggerated bad reputation,” said Wenger when Gallas joined Spurs. “He can be, sometimes, a little bit brutal or impulsive in his reaction.
“But when you are a manager, he is not someone who talks behind your back. He is somebody who is straight and is completely focused on the game. You respect that.”
However, Wenger’s decision to stand by Gallas after his infamous ‘rant’ at Birmingham in 2008 after Gael Clichy had given away a last-minute penalty infuriated other players.
Former Gunners stalwart Kolo Toure was among those who felt Gallas should not have been the club’s captain after that incident, and the pair’s falling-out led to Toure leaving Arsenal for Manchester City in the summer of 2009.
That deepened the rift between Gallas and other players at Arsenal, with his successor as captain, Cesc Fabregas, among those who didn’t see eye-to-eye with the Frenchman.
Now Gallas will be part of a Spurs side looking for their first win in N5 since in more than 17 years on Saturday, while victory for the Gunners will send them top of the Premier League table.