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William Gallas, cigarettes, Arsenal and some perspective

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God knows I’ve blogged my fair share of criticism on Billy G’s behavior – his move away from Chelsea, his time at Arsenal, especially post-Henry, his comments to the press, it’s all made for ripe pickings for the baying mob and we’ve loved it.

This time though, it has nothing to do with football, it’s not Gallas criticising his teammates in the media, it’s not a teammate saying Gallas has made mistakes, it’s not Gallas ‘giving up’ in the dying moments of the game, it’s not a player looking for more money and more respect from his club.

It’s just a guy, out at night, coming out of a night club with a cigarette on his lips, about to light it (of course he was going to smoke it).

We could burn him at the stake – and in some ways he’s already been taken to task, what with Wenger being asked about the incident and saying that he’d already been told about the picture, saying that what Gallas did wasn’t right and that Gallas has made mistakes and this was a mistake too.

Or we could step back, get some perspective, and say – fuck off.

William Gallas is 31 years old. He’s a professional athlete. He’s the captain of one of the most prestigious football clubs in England and Europe (some would say the world, what with the Premier League’s dominance of global television). At this club he’s also a role model for younger pros.

At best, he smokes the occasional cig when he’s out at night on an off day. At worst, he’s a chronic smoker. Something tells me that a chronic smoker would not have survived under Wenger’s regime, so my money is on Gallas being the irregular offender.

Does it make him less of a footballer? Not really. Does it make him less of a person? Not really. Has he let down his club? If the grand institution that is Arsenal is going to have its image tarnished because the captain let his hair down one night and the paps got a photo to show for it, then the dream that is Arsenal is far more fragile than we’re led to believe.

Wenger, for my money, should have told the press that it’s an internal matter and that he would not talk about it until he spoke to his captain, and that the press should respect the privacy of his players. Back your man Wenger, not only when he slips up on the pitch but also when he slips up off it.

This is far less of a deal (if it’s a deal at all) than Gallas speaking to the press criticising his teammates, but he never got a press gag for that, yet he’s going to be admonished in public for this?

To fans – get some perspective. To Wenger, back your man. To Gallas – dude, if I can quit smoking, so can you. Don’t let them get to you.

As an aside, I have a fresh insight on Gallas. I used to think that he craved responsibility, I’ve figured now that he just likes the thrill of winning the game for the team. As for responsibility, he’s not a player who thrives under extreme pressure (not saying he cracks – he rises to the occasion and lives for it, but he’s doesn’t seem the type of person who excels when things go really south). Wenger needs to put less pressure on him – which he has to an extent by protecting him in the past – and especially when he’s being targeted by the press for nothing at all.

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.