Given the consistent levels of stick that Tottenham Hotspur’s resident pantomime villain William Gallas has received this season, it’s become so fashionable to slate the Frenchman in recent weeks, it’s resembled something of a hobby. So before we start, let’s pay a visit to the Oxford Dictionary for a spot of clarification.
Definition of Scapegoat:
Now no one who has watched Andre Villas-Boas’ side throughout this season, can be in any doubt that William Gallas has made his fair share of mistakes. The ex-Arsenal man’s powers have naturally waned given his veteran 35 years and he must take a proportion of responsibility for the current porous state of the side’s defense.
But the way, in which some supporters have singled out Gallas as some form of perceived root cause for their team’s defensive issues, is as alarming as it is unfair. Of course in an ideal world, William Gallas wouldn’t be starting for Spurs at center half. But the Premier League isn’t an ideal world. And it’s time Gallas was cut a bit of slack and fans stopped framing him as a scapegoat.
It’s probably a good job that William Gallas doesn’t indulge in a spot of social networking, because you’d imagine if he had, he probably wouldn’t be such a happy chappy. His defensive counterpart Kyle Walker recently closed his Twitter account to ‘focus on his game’, but only did so after aiming a few parting shots at a small section of fans who delivered some rather unsavory Tweets. If Walker received stick after the Chelsea game, you could only imagine what Gallas would have been in for.
But since that flashpoint, supporters have been keen to rally behind their out-of-form right back, Messages of support have been in abundance and on Wednesday night, fans made a point out of singing Walker’s name at Carrow Road, when the youngster foraged down the away support’s end.
Yet it seems completely unfeasible that Gallas would be afforded such similar treatment, even though Walker has arguably endured an even worse season than he has. Maybe because Walker is over a decade younger, is a current PFA Young Player of the Year and the fact he doesn’t retain a chequered London past, gives him preferential treatment. But it shouldn’t.
Andre Villas-Boas’ hand has been forced by the misfortune of injury and the fates of both Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have left the Lilywhites in a really quite difficult position. To loose their outstanding centre half in Kaboul to a knee injury after their season’s opener at Newcastle, was an absolute sickener and no one can under-estimate the impact of that.
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But it’s been the loss of Assou-Ekotto, which has really sent the house of cards tumbling down. With the Cameroon international out, Spurs were by right, left without a recognized left-back. Even Kyle Naughton, who is a right-sided full-back by right, spent a spot of time on the treatment table, after playing in the 3-1 victory away to Reading. Villas-Boas has had to play his best centre-half, in Jan Vertonghen, in the left-sided berth.
So with three central defenders in Gallas, Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson left, AVB decided to leave fans’ favourite Dawson on the bench, in favour of the other two. A move that hasn’t gone down well with all supporters.
With both Gallas and Dawson, it was always going to be a case of damage limitation, and ultimately, it was Gallas’ skillset that has come out on top in the shoot out. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.
Andre Villas-Boas is already facing a struggle to transform his side into the well oiled, possession based machine that he craves. In Gallas, he has a ball playing central defender. And it’s no coincidence that as of the Southampton game, Gallas has the highest pass completion rate – albeit not very challenging passes – of any player in the league bar Rio Ferdinand. Michael Dawson’s trademark hoof looks good in injury time on Match of the Day. In terms of winning football matches under Andre Villas-Boas, it proves a massive detriment.
Again, Gallas doesn’t have the pace that he did five years ago. But you only have to watch Dawson’s outing against Norwich in the League Cup to see that in a footrace, the Frenchman is sill likely to come out on top. Dawson has been ravaged by injuries to both his knee and Achillies. This isn’t to say he’s not a supreme aerial defender and a good reader of the game – before the author is accused of disrespect, I’ve always remained a massive fan – but the signs don’t look good for a man who was already accused of immobility before another debilitating injury.
Even then, Spurs aren’t ship-shape at the back, but they’re coping and as tough as it seems to believe, Gallas has played his part in coaxing the club to fourth placed after nine games. It was him who was seen dragging the back four by the scruff of the neck as the clock ticked down at Old Trafford and sorting out his defensive colleagues during the 3-2 victory against Manchester United. And if you don’t believe me, listen to the men who have played alongside him.
Steven Caulker has spoke of how Gallas was ‘always speaking and helping him through’ against United. Jan Vertonghen has spoke of how he treats him like his ‘little brother’, how he ‘really appreciates him’ and what a ‘good captain he makes’. He’s had a profound effect upon easing the duo into this Spurs side. Even if Gallas isn’t firing on all cylinders, he’s bringing the best out of others.
William Gallas is there as a means to an end, not a long term measure. When Assou-Ekotto comes back to fitness, hopefully followed by Younes Kaboul, he will revert back to fourth choice centre half. But while he is in the team, let’s stop using him as a scapegoat and start getting behind him.
Sick of the sight of William Gallas? Craving for a return of Michael Dawson? Vent all you frustration out on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and tell me what you’d do if you were AVB.