William Gallas was yesterday stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and ordered not to board the team bus for today's Premier League match away to Manchester City. The decision was taken by Arsène Wenger after a team meeting at lunchtime following Gallas's outburst attacking other Arsenal players including Robin van Persie.
Amazingly, Gallas returned to the attack yesterday by criticising another Arsenal team-mate, Samir Nasri, and detailing, in his autobiography which has just been published, a bust-up with the midfielder while the pair were on international duty during Euro 2008.
Wenger felt he had to act to try to halt the crisis that is in danger of engulfing Arsenal's season following the stuttering start to their League campaign – with four defeats – and serious injury to Theo Walcott and claims of divisions and arguments fuelled by Gallas. The manager had wanted to stand by the 31-year-old, as he has done in the past, particularly after the defender's petulant sit-down protest against Birmingham City last season, but, according to sources, felt he had to act because of the strength of feeling from other players over Gallas.
Last night Arsenal refused to comment on whether Gallas had travelled north but it's understood that he has been excluded despite the squad already been depleted by the absence of Kolo Touré and Bacary Sagna through injury, with Cesc Fabregas suspended. Either Johan Djourou or Alex Song is likely to deputise with Manuel Almunia captaining the side.
Wenger has told the players it is a temporary measure and he hopes to reinstate Gallas but it is believed he is considering making an alternative long-term appointment, such as Fabregas or Gaël Clichy, with Gallas likely to leave at the end of the season if not before. In his outburst in an interview earlier this week, Gallas did not name van Persie but offered clues about a player who, he claimed, had sworn at him and verbally abused others and was involved in a half-time clash in the dressing room during the 4-4 draw with Tottenham Hotspur last month.
That interview was part of the promotional work for Gallas's autobiography and the book itself contains revelations that will have upset Wenger. Gallas, once again, doesn't name the player he clashed with but says it is a midfielder and refers to him as "S". Sources said yesterday it was Nasri. Gallas said that he and "S" had argued during a training session after the defender had scolded the midfielder for not calling out when he made a pass, with the ball falling behind Gallas who then claimed he was sworn at by his team-mate and told to "worry about your own game".
"They think they know everything but they know nothing," Gallas said of France's young players, just as he had criticised Arsenal's. "I was also 20 years old once. I would never have allowed myself to speak in this tone to a footballer who was older than me. The youngsters from the Euros seem cheeky, very sure of themselves. They think they know it all, but they don't know anything.
"Faced with his contempt, I raised my voice. The young player said, 'Lower your voice, speak less loudly'. I replied, 'How are you speaking to me? Who do you think you are? You are only 20 years old. I am not your friend'." The player then replied, "I'm not your friend either" with Gallas adding: "Straight away, I see red." The argument continued when the players boarded the team bus following training when "S" took Thierry Henry's seat and refused to move. Gallas called the player "insolent" although he finally did change seats.
In his book Gallas talks about leaving Arsenal and finishing his career in France having already said he may quit the club if a trophy isn't won this season. "It's true that I'd like to return to France for one or perhaps two seasons to finish my career," Gallas said. "But if I go it won't be to just anywhere. I'd go to a big club or nowhere at all. It would be Marseille, Lyons, PSG or, let's not forget, Bordeaux."
Meanwhile, Wenger confirmed yesterday that Arsenal would seek compensation, which could amount to around £1.5m, from the FA's insurers for Walcott's shoulder injury which occurred while he was on England duty earlier this week.
Wenger's problem: james lawton, page 5