Back in November, our season was going from one bad result to another, before taking a nightmare turn when William Gallas uttered the public criticisms that led to his removal as captain of the football club. Back then, it seemed inconceivable that he would still be at the Emirates come the end of this summer.
Fast forward nine months, and suddenly he is the anchor that our defence is currently built around, a crucial part of a squad lacking experience, and a man we have almost universally forgiven. Quite a turnaround, no?
Some will never praise the way Gallas has kept quiet, gotten his head down and put in half a season of performances better than anything we’d seen since the day he joined, simply because his comments and actions in the past make him a difficult man to like. But respect him we must – he is a winner, and while much of what he said was horribly misjudged, his thirst for the fight is a trait we need to harness throughout the team.
Toure has gone, and the returning Senderos appears to be on his way to Everton, according to the reliable Arseblogger. That leaves us with Gallas and Vermaelen as the probable first choice pairing, Djourou as the back up, and Silvestre as the emergency button. Song is listed by Wenger as an option, but in my mind he is establishing himself as a defensive central midfielder, not a centre half.
It is a shame to see Senderos go, but if true, Wenger is bringing in some serious cash this summer. He opens himself up to enormous criticism if he spends no more of it, only to see us struggle, so his faith in the players cannot be just talk to boost their confidence if he does steer clear of the market for the next month. We all know he can be ruthless, he is being exactly that this summer, so hopefully he’ll realise this squad still has two major holes in it and gets them fixed.
Elsewhere, the Vieira rumour mill rumbles on, and while it still sounds a bit pie in the sky, it seems that the player himself is the one desperate for the move, and therefore a player/coach/dressing room leader role is not out of the question. It would certainly be popular, and remarkable.
And, in the biggest shock of all, we actually saw some decent football today. At last! I know we’ve been playing friendlesalready, but Atletico Madrid were the first real challenge, and more importantly, it was my first taste of the live action since May.
The first half was fairly tepid, Rosicky marking his return with a bright opening, and a wonderful curling finish into the top corner, unfortunately from an offside position, while on a slightly less happy note, Eboue countered yesterday’s assertion on Twitter that I really wanted him to stay by reminding everyone how utterly infuriating he can be, breaking down our attacks more efficiently than any opponent.
The second, however, was much improved, lit up by the magical feet of Jack Wilshere, who must surely be pushing for first team football (at the same age Cesc became a regular, incidentally), and Arshavin, who came off the bench to score both goals, the first a careful volley and the second a last gasp winner from a ridiculous angle. The goals sandwiched an equaliser borne out of the sort of slack defending that still needs ironing out.
Reyes was booed, which was disappointing, in fact he seemed more heavily singled out than Forlan, which strikes me as odd. The Spaniard certainly failed in his time in England, but he doesn’t deserve to be the pantomime villain. There are plenty of those to aim at this season.
All in all, it was an excellent workout, with more of the same to come against Rangers tomorrow.
By then, the Senderos transfer may be confirmed, and with it the affirmation that Gallas is as key as another other member of our squad. Well played, Bill.