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Monday, 18 July 2011

Make-weights #1 Ashley Cole to Chelsea in exchange for £5 Million and William Gallas

This transfer, completed in the summer of 2006 involves two of the nice-guys of football, Ashley Cole, who had recently been embroiled in a tapping-up scandal the year before, and William Gallas – a player with such a toxic dressing room influence at Chelsea that he had allegedly threatened to score own goals if he was not given a move. So, you could look upon the deal as either win-win in terms of playing personnel, or lose-lose in terms of characters.

Ashley Cole famously nearly swerved his supercar into a tree when he first heard about Arsenal’s derisory 55 THOUSAND pounds a week improved contract offer, and had been at the centre of a tapping-up storm a year earlier, with Chelsea, Mourinho and Cole all fined by the Premier League.
William Gallas, in similar fashion, had refused to sign an improved contract offer from his employers, again stating that there was not enough money on offer. Gallas is a far more versatile defender than Ashley Cole, able to play across the back four, although more comfortable at centre-back. He had formed a formidable partnership with John Terry at the heart of Chelsea’s back to back title winning teams under Jose Mourinho, but relations quickly soured. The two players found themselves facing each other across London, both with big frowns and bottom lips pushed out in pitiful scowls. Luckily, the two clubs started talking and agreed a deal to exchange one rotten apple for another bad egg.

Arsenal had an exciting young talent by the name of Gael Clichy as understudy to Ashley Cole, so they felt that they could let him go. Clichy was a player in Cole’s mould, fast and willing to break forward, but perhaps less defensively sound than Cole. Arsenal also had the need to replace the mentally erratic Sol Campbell, who had disappeared for days during the season and left the club that same summer of 2006 seeking new challenges.

Chelsea were in the midst of Abramovic’s first spending spree as Chelsea owner. To be honest, if Gallas hadn’t have been such a disruptive influence they would probably have been prepared to pay a huge amount of money for Ashley Cole. They already had Wayne Bridge, who at the time was in contention with Ashley Cole for an England spot at left back. Chelsea had generally preferred the partnership of Terry and Carvalho in central defence, and had Robert Huth as back-up, and the also bought Khalid Boulahrouz just for good measure. Suffice to say, they weren’t especially going to miss him.

Ashley Cole’s 2006-7 season was interrupted by a bad knee injury, not before he’d had fake bank notes with his face on them waved at him during a league match against Arsenal. Having won the league twice with Arsenal, including the invincibles season (During which Robert Pires kicked a Portsmouth defender and fell over to win a penalty, thus saving Arsenal from a defeat) he was made to wait until the 2009-10 season before picking up a Premier League medal, his only whilst at Chelsea, but he has also won two FA Cups and one League Cup during his time there. Perhaps he didn’t perform well enough at a mere £90,000 a week, and must have tried a lot harder after securing £130,000 a week at the start of Chelsea’s title winning 2009-10 season – who knows?

William Gallas on the other hand, doesn’t have any medals to show from his time at Arsenal. He’s formed great central defensive partnerships with Kolo Toure and latterly Thomas Vermaelen, but at the end of the day, won nothing. In his second season at the club he was given the captaincy, perhaps an effort to improve Gallas’ attitude. It worked for a while, and Gallas was able to enjoy getting one over his old team, when he headed the only goal of a closely fought league match. However, things started unravelling again a few months later, after Eduardo da Silva’s leg was horrifically broken in a challenge with Birmingham City’s Martin Taylor. In layman’s terms, he totally lost it. He wandered into the Birmingham City half, remonstrated with the crowd, then camped out in the centre circle after the final whistle, having to be consoled by Arsene Wenger before he would leave the pitch. Gallas somehow retained the captaincy for the next season, but then began playing his old tricks again. In many people’s view, a club captain should be an example on and off the pitch, a motivator or colleagues, and inspiration to junior squad members. Perhaps that was what he had in mind when he said “We are not brave enough in battle. I think we need to be soldiers. To be champions, you have to play big matches every weekend and fight”. It certainly could be seen as a battle cry – a call to arms. He calls upon team mates to be warrior for goodness sake. However, in the British media, you’re once a nutjob, always a nutjob, and there were calls for Gallas to be stripped of the captaincy. Fan forums went mental, accusing the Frenchman of being disharmonious, when it could be argues that he was trying to… ah sod it – he’s a nutjob.

Gallas left Arsenal after failing to agree a new contract. He was accused by the chairman of making unreasonable demands and acting in a way not conducive to the good of the team (Sound familiar?). He moved to fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur – mirroring the move of fellow crazy centre-back Sol Campbell, again playing well at the heart of defence. Again he’s proving to be a good player, but surely only retirement will withhold him from another acrimonious departure.

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