Arsène Wenger indicated last night that William Gallas does have a future at Arsenal, after watching his side collapse to a feckless 3-0 defeat at Manchester City which places the League title all but out of reach.
"Of course he has a future at the club," Wenger said of his erstwhile club captain Gallas, who was left behind in London after his trenchant criticism of Arsenal's lack of fight in midweek. Wenger otherwise flatly refused to discuss Gallas during a response to the match in which he was prickly and reluctant to talk about the clear lack of fight which his young side had displayed.
"I will not speak about William Gallas," Wenger said. "Nothing was disturbing [us] before the game. We had a good focus the way we concentrated. A player doesn't play today, what can he do for the club? Nothing. Why should we not talk about Fabregas or the other players who were not there?"
Wenger dismissed suggestions that the defeat, in which Arsenal conceded a calamitous first-half injury-time goal and never recovered, showed their need for a fighting leader. "I don't believe too much in that," he said. "I believe more in good passing than a guy who jumps around with the hands in the air and plays the leader."
The Arsenal manager insisted he was "not in a blaming culture at our club. We stand up for our responsibilities". But after five defeats this season by sides Arsenal genuinely ought to have beaten – Hull, Stoke, Fulham and Aston Villa before yesterday – he accepted that the title currently looks unreachable. "At the moment we have to win the next [game] and not have set targets which don't look immediately reachable," he said. "Let's take the next one and go from there."
The City manager, Mark Hughes, would not tolerate public declarations like those from Gallas. "You can't have the tail wagging the dog, if that's the right phrase," he said last night. "They need to know who the manager is and who will make the key decision."
The Gunners did not lose much ground on Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United at the top of the Premier League after all three were held to goalless draws, but they did slip out of the top four, leapfrogged by Aston Villa after the latter held Manchester United at Villa Park. Luiz Felipe Scolari's leaders were thwarted at home by a defensively-minded Newcastle, whose interim manager, Joe Kinnear, revealed that he would be in charge for another month, while Fulham also forced a point at Anfield.