Brave contract call by Wenger, but the right one?

It was reported in the Sun yesterday that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is willing to risk losing William Gallas in the summer. With the defender’s contract running out Wenger is expected to stick to his one year contract policy for players over 30 years of age. Surely such a decision is madness with the squad lacking experience.

Wenger’s policy towards older players has had mixed success. It was very successful with Dennis Bergkamp and kept the player at the club until the end of his career. It has however cost the Gunners players such as Robert Pires and Jens Lehmann. Understandably some players are offended by the idea that they become a risk once they hit 30. The assumption that they are now potentially unreliable physically is hardly helpful in contract negotiations.

With a whole host of clubs willing to take the ‘risk’ on over 30 year old players surely Arsenal are shooting themselves in the foot with this policy. Pires has gone on to have 4 successful and relatively injury free seasons at Villarreal. Players such as Pires would have been able to continue to perform for Arsenal as well as helping younger members of the squad to adapt to the demands of the Premier League.

William Gallas has had an eventful career at Arsenal and his performances have been at times disappointing. He is however a two time league champion as well as having a World Cup runners up medal. Such experience is invaluable and it would be futile for any side to allow such a player to leave unnecessarily on a free transfer. The decision however takes on a new meaning as Arsenal have for several years now lacked experience and the presence of senior players. William Gallas is one of the very few players with the experience of winning trophies in the Arsenal squad. Most Arsenal fans hope that Wenger will buy more experienced players rather than let one leave.

This season has also seen an improvement in Gallas’s performances alongside Thomas Vermaelen. For several seasons Arsenal’s centre back partnerships have been heavily criticised with the like of Kolo Toure, Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos partnering Gallas. This season Arsenal finally have a top partnership and it seems ridiculous to risk breaking it up. As a centre half 32 is hardly ‘past it’ either. Particularly for William Gallas who has always possessed excellent pace and he certainly does not look like an old defender. He may have to rely on his positioning and reading of the game more now than when he was 21 but he is still a top class defender. In terms of cover within the squad there is very little. Recent signing Sol Campbell was signed to provide much needed experience and cover to the squad. He is however not able to become a regular in the first team, so Arsenal have little other options within the squad.

Of course Gallas may well accept the one year contract extension. He may like the flexibility it provides him and also the added desire to prove his worth to Wenger. Such a scenario is uncommon however with footballers understandably wanting stability towards the end of their career.

With continued rumours of Cesc Fabregas departing in the summer the prospect of losing both players must be terrifying for Arsenal fans. At present most fans agree that Arsenal are a goalkeeper and a striker away from a very strong team. If however these two players leave, the squad looks far more average and there would be a desperate need for a centre half and a star midfielder.

Wenger is a man of principle and he very rarely changes his position on an issue. He would however be showing naivety himself if he allows a player of Gallas’s quality to simply leave his squad. Many more Arsenal fans will begin to question Wenger if he allows the Frenchman to leave in the summer. It seems unlikely that Wenger will change his policy so Arsenal fans must hope that Gallas is willing to accept the offer and stay to fight for trophies for the club.

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