Redknapp backing warrior Gallas to spark bid for title
ARSENAL 2 TOTTENHAM 3
Published 22/11/2010 | 05:00
There is a story about William Gallas from his early days at Arsenal when the team returned to the dressing-room after a scrappy, poor away victory.
One of the younger players complained about the performance, how he did not get the ball, how badly he had done. Gallas' response was short and sharp.
Without the expletives, the gist of it was: "Who cares? We won."
The defender polarises opinion, but there is one indisputable fact: he wants to win. And he does not care if he upsets team-mates or opponents along the way.
There was a mischievous masterstroke on Saturday with Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp awarding Gallas the captain's armband -- especially as he had been stripped of the honour by Arsene Wenger during his time at Arsenal.
It was the first time Gallas had worn it for Spurs, whom he joined on a free transfer in the summer, and the manager said he might stick with him.
"William should be captain, in all honesty," Redknapp said.
Gallas wore the band like a warrior taking his colours into battle -- as Samir Nasri, who had refused to shake his hand because of bad blood between the pair, found out in an early shuddering challenge.
"No one was keen on me getting him," Redknapp said. "I don't think anyone was mad about him coming to Tottenham because of Arsenal. I nearly took Patrick Vieira the year before and I don't think either of them have committed a crime just because they've played for Arsenal. They play football.
"I managed West Ham, I manage Tottenham -- I've not done anything wrong. It's a job, like anybody changing jobs. I had to fight my corner to get him. I went out on a limb with everybody -- the fans, chairman and everybody else. No one wanted me to sign him -- only me and William."
Redknapp revealed Gallas had agreed to halve his Arsenal wages. "He's shown some character to do that," he said of the 33-year-old. "I wasn't bothered that he didn't shake hands with Nasri. I think it's petty really. The players shaking hands before the game is a bit silly anyway."
It may well be. But Redknapp contrasted the edge that Gallas has with Gareth Bale's behaviour in a first half in which Spurs were dominated, Arsenal rampant, the 2-0 scoreline a pale reflection of their supremacy.
"I got the right hump with Gareth when their right-back (Bacary Sagna) made a diabolical tackle on him and then Gareth went for a tackle and bumped in and then walked over and shook hands with him," he explained. "I said, 'what are we? Are we the nice guys or something?'"
Spurs completed an extraordinary comeback, aided by an equally astonishing capitulation from Arsenal. It meant Tottenham finally consigned a raft of statistics -- 68 away league matches against the traditional 'top four' without a win, 17 years since a victory at Arsenal -- to history, and there was a telling remark from match-winner Younes Kaboul, who accused the Arsenal supporters of being "cheap" in abusing Gallas.
He added: "Once we scored our first goal, we definitely felt like we could win. They are still a fantastic team but it was the first time I've come to the Emirates thinking we could win."
Everyone in the stadium sensed it and in Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny Arsenal simply do not have strong enough characters in the heart of their defence to 'dig in', with Denilson going missing ahead of them.
Wenger was almost dizzy with rage afterwards, talking of "mental toughness" and how hard it was to "swallow" the way in which his team "completely lost focus". After all, at half-time they were effectively top of the league.
"We could have scored seven and in the end we lose 3-2 by making kids' mistakes," he said. "If you analyse the statistics, it's difficult to explain why we lost."
Arsenal went ahead through Nasri's determination and skill -- aided by an error by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes -- with Marouane Chamakh adding a second goal. It appeared game over but Spurs held on until the interval and in Rafael van der Vaart and Gallas, they have recruited players with the belief to rescue such situations.
The returning Jermain Defoe also made a difference and it was from his flick-on, guided forward by Van der Vaart, that Bale sprinted through to reduce the deficit.
Cesc Fabregas' handball, raising his arm in the defensive wall, allowed Van der Vaart to score from a penalty and then, finally, Kaboul rose to guide his header into the net for the winner.
By then, Arsenal were drained of belief. As unstoppable as Fabregas was in the first half, so he almost came to a stop in the second.
It was the kind of result which Redknapp believes leaves the league "wide open". "It's the most open season ever," he claimed."There's no reason why we can't challenge. I'll even put myself under pressure by saying that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)