The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Based on William Gallas’s latest intemperate, teammate-under-bus-throwing outburst in the press, I’d be inclined to guess that it’s William Gallas. But Gallas himself insists there’s someone else. He stoutly refuses to name names, but then, a touch less stoutly, agrees to name ages: “I’m 31, the player is six years younger than me.”
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, there comes a time where we can no longer comprehend how this can happen. I am trying to defend myself a bit without giving names. Otherwise I’m taking it all [the blame]. It’s very frustrating. I’m 31, the player is six years younger than me.
So what does this give us? Arsenal currently have four 25-year-olds in their squad: Bacary Sagna, Eduardo da Silva, Robin van Persie, and Emmanuel Eboué. It can’t be Eduardo, since Gallas claims to have confronted this player “on the pitch.” And of Sagna, van Persie, and Eboué, only Sagna and van Persie have played recently because of Eboué’s knee injury.
So let’s narrow the list down to Sagna and van Persie. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think it’s van Persie? On the one hand you have a hard-working right-back who’s enjoyed consistently good form for the club since he joined last season and who’s sounded a mature note in all his interviews; on the other you have a temperamental striker with a history of feuding with coaches, who was once describes as “21 going on nine,” who’s been continually frustrated by injury and had a hard time blending with the team, and who was recently sent off for shoulder-charging Thomas Sørensen to the ground in Arsenal’s match against Stoke City. I don’t know, who would you pick? Really the only piece of evidence you could muster against Sagna is his hair’s abiding fanciness.
Anyway, all the commentary about Gallas’s tantrum is going to be focused on criticizing Gallas, and not wrongly. But it also seems clear that he’s not simply making up the story about the problematic 25-year-old. And since “what’s been ailing Arsenal” is ultimately a more interesting question than “what are some ways we can disapprove of Gallas,” let’s not overlook what this incident tells us, albeit at second hand, about van Persie.
by Brian Phillips · November 20, 2008