Wenger backs his skipper
Arsene Wenger insists that William Gallas has not buckled under the burden of captaincy.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 18/04/08 6:58pm
Arsene Wenger insists that William Gallas has not buckled under the burden of captaincy this season.
The Arsenal boss was responding to claims that the French defender had displayed a severe lack of leadership skills during a difficult period for the club.
The problems began when Gallas reacted angrily to a late penalty being conceded in the 2-2 draw at Birmingham back in February, the moment many people feel the Gunners' title bid came off track.
The former Chelsea player has then gone on to make outspoken comments about team-mate Theo Walcott, and has come under scrutiny for his lack of communication on the field.
Despite the criticism, Wenger has revealed that Gallas will continue to lead the side for the remainder of the season and has no plans to pass the armband to someone else in the near future.
"At the moment he will be my captain until the end of the season," he said.
"I believe he has learned a lot this year and I can only say that his commitment and desire to do well was exceptional.
"I made that decision and I have to stand up for that decision, I have to protect the team and the individuals as well at the moment.
"They get criticised and maybe we deserve critics at the moment but overall the team has made good progress this year."
Should Gallas eventually be stripped of the captaincy, one of the contenders to take over could well be Mathieu Flamini.
The French midfielder has emerged as a key member of the Gunners' side this season, attracting a host of interest from Europe's top clubs.
With his contract due to expire in the summer, Wenger is obviously keen to keep the 24-year-old at Emirates Stadium, and insists that a decision over his future is imminent.
"We are getting close to yes or no," Wenger said.
"He says he wants to stay and I believe him. But as long as he has not signed, for me he is free to sign where he wants.
"We have set ourselves a target until the end of the month of April to finalise the situation, one way or the other.
"That's an absolute deadline because afterwards we have to make decisions because if you have to move on the market you don't have much time left."
With comings and goings seemingly on the cards in North London over the summer, Wenger was also keen to point out that he has no intention of making a move for Valencia striker David Villa.
The Spanish international admitted on Wednesday that he would be open to a switch to the Gunners, but Wenger feels that he already has all the firepower he needs.
"He made a big compliment to the team," said the Arsenal boss.
"We have many requests from players who want to join. But I feel up front I need to give time to (Theo) Walcott and (Nicklas) Bendtner because they have made big improvement for me this season.
"Theo is coming on so I need to give them a chance or they will not come out."