Gallas urges Arsenal's young stars to fight harder
PARIS: Arsenal captain William Gallas has called for the team's coveted young stars to toughen up and accept that having the stomach for a fight is just as important as silky skill if they want to win the Premier League title.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Gallas raised concerns that Arsenal's highly rated youngsters may not always have shown the necessary bite when it mattered this season. He also revealed there have been recent arguments among team members on and off the pitch.
"We have to understand that to be champions, you have to play big matches every weekend and fight," Gallas told the AP. "We are coming up against teams who are not scared to play football against us, who are not scared to take us on at our place, and this is becoming dangerous for Arsenal."
Arsenal lost its fourth game of the season — and its second at home after being unbeaten at the Emirates last season — 2-0 to Aston Villa last weekend, putting the Gunners already nine points behind Chelsea and Liverpool in the title race.
"We are not brave enough in battle. I think we need to be soldiers. We have to be warriors," Gallas said. "There are teams who can do it well against us, and we have to be able to face up to these attacks.
"That is how they will forge their character, and how they will get experience. Even though they've played a certain number of matches, they're still young and still learning," Gallas added.
Friction is creeping into the squad and Gallas says he sometimes feels out of touch.
Revealing for the first time how he broke up an argument when Arsenal drew 4-4 with bitter rival Tottenham, Gallas also said some Arsenal players were insulted by their own teammate during another match.
Gallas said he is speaking out because "there are things that can't be said and can't be tolerated" and because he is fed up with taking the majority of criticism because he wears the captain's armband.
Gallas was criticized for a show of petulance last season when Arsenal conceded a late penalty against Birmingham. He feels it was justified at the time, but that the criticism has unfairly carried over into this season.
One incident this season greatly upset the France defender.
"When, as captain, some players come up to you and talk to you about a player ... complaining about him ... and then during the match you speak to this player and the player in question insults us," Gallas said. "There comes a time where we can no longer comprehend how this can happen."
Gallas would not reveal the player's name, although he said the incident occurred during an attacking phase of play.
"I am trying to defend myself a bit without giving names. Otherwise I'm taking it all (the blame). It's very frustrating," he said. "I'm 31, the player is six years younger than me."
Gallas also broke up an argument in the Arsenal changing rooms during the halftime interval against Spurs. Arsenal went on to throw away victory after leading 4-2 with just minutes remaining.
"There was a problem at halftime," Gallas said. "The only thing that I could say at halftime was 'Guys, we resolve these problems after the match, not at halftime.'"
Gallas says Arsenal's young stars are not guaranteed to emulate Manchester United's golden generation — when David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville all broke through from the youth ranks — just on talent alone.
"They can have (the same success). The problem is that the Manchester youngsters have been through something, they have won something," Gallas said. "
Big contracts — which Arsenal's teenage players have now, and United's starlets waited years for — may be a factor. "That makes the difference, perhaps. You can rest on your laurels, that's for sure," Gallas said, adding that eulogies over the team's future potential masks the fact that Arsenal are not winning anything.
Having won two league titles with Chelsea, Gallas is desperate for a trophy.
"I have to win something this year. I have to win something, Arsenal has to win something," Gallas said. "It's four or five years since Arsenal won anything — 2004 (the league title). That's nearly five years, and that's not good."
Another season without silverware, Gallas said, "would be a kind of failure."
Asked if he would leave the club if Arsenal does not win the title, Gallas kept his options open.
"We will have to see. We don't know what will happen between here and then," he said. "For me the title is not over, it's true that we are nine points behind Chelsea, but you have to be optimistic and you can't give up.