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FA Cup quarterfinal draw

FA Cup

Q&A with Arsenal defender William Gallas

Despite rumours of an imminent departure, William Gallas is now ready to take on another season for the Gunners.

The former Blues defender elaborates exclusively to ESPNSoccernet on the potential of the new vibrant Arsenal side as well as his feelings about Thierry Henry's decision to bring down the curtain on his Arsenal spell.

ESPNsoccernet: Since the end of last season, Arsenal has found themselves in troubled waters with the departure of David Dein and Thierry Henry, rumours of a foreign take-over and criticism of a squad far too young to lift the ambitions of such a young club. How has this affected the preparations for the up-coming season?

Gallas: 'You know, our job is basically to give everything we have on the pitch and not worry too much about what is going on outside the stadium. This is not the easiest thing to do for everyone but this is a measure of showing your true value to the club.

'As for Thierry Henry it was his choice. It was his decision and all I can do is to wish him good luck. It is always a blow when a great player decided to leave and especially when it is somebody that you enjoy a good relationship with but we have to turn a new leaf. And do it quickly!!'

ESPNsoccernet: But is Arsenal not much more vulnerable without Henry?

Gallas: 'I can only give you the answer by the end of this season. For the moment we are all trying to get an impression of our strength but I am not worried about the potential of Arsenal.

On the contrary I am very excited to see how the youngsters will develop. I especially think of Nicklas Bendtner. I had never heard about him when he joined the squad but he has impressed me immensely. He is very powerful, good in the air, skilful in front of goal and very difficult to dispossess. He has no doubt a very big future ahead of him.'

ESPNsoccernet: Arsenal finished 21 points behind Manchester United and 15 points behind Chelsea in the past season. Is there any reason to believe that Arsenal can still challenge for the title knowing that these sides have spent the summer strengthening their squads while Arsenal hasn't?

Gallas: 'In my eyes, yes, we still have our eyes on the title. The youngsters in the squad have learnt a lesson from last year. There is a new spirit in the Arsenal squad, a will to improve from last season and sacrifice himself for your fellow squad member. The team stands above all. The will to win is certainly there. In our preseason we have looked very solid defensively and very organised in midfield. I don't think we will fall through like last season.

ESPNsoccernet: 'You are one of three players (Gilberto Silva and Kolo Toure) who could take the captain's armband at Arsenal.

Gallas: 'Yes, you are right and if it was offered to me I would accept it. I am now 30 years old and I want to have more responsibility in the team. To be a leader for the youngsters and steer the team in the right direction.'

ESPNsoccernet: Marco Materazzi has stated that he is ready to give the French 'a warm welcome' in your crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Italy in one month's time. How do you anticipate that encounter?

Gallas: 'We should not let the past get in our way for our preparations for that match. It is a huge occasion for both sides. Whoever gets the best of that encounter is likely to qualify for the finals. A draw would be a good result for us but our ambition is to win all matches.'

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