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Oct 31, 2008

Gunners lacking leadership on the pitch

So the finger pointing can begin. After throwing away a two-goal lead against Tottenham on Wednesday night it has been revealed that the Arsenal players turned the air blue with their post-match bust-up in the dressing room.

Publicly, all Arsene Wenger would say was "we have to look at ourselves and improve'', but behind the scenes it would appear that he had a few choice words to say to his senior players, most notably Willam Gallas, Mikael Silvestre and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Yet Wenger must take a portion of the blame himself. For all of Arsenal's pace, elegance and exuberance, they lack a leader to take control of a game when it turns sour and Wenger's refusal to sign experienced players has not helped.

The last few minutes were a prime example of immaturity against Tottenham and it is hard to imagine the side capitulating so easily, had Patrick Vieira or Tony Adams been on the pitch.

Adams has now been tasked with pulling Portsmouth up by the bootstraps in his new role as manager, but one of Arsenal's greatest ever captains must have had one eye on the Emirates as the Arsenal defence crumbled. As a fan he will not have liked what he saw but, like every other Premier League manager, he will now be seeking to capitalise on Arsenal's soft centre.

Only four clubs boast a better defensive record than Arsenal this season, but it is notable that both Chelsea and Manchester United have conceded half as many goals. The Gunners' defence is simply not strong enough to mount a serious title charge and the blame can, mainly, be placed with the captain.

Where Chelsea have John Terry, United have one of Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville or Ryan Giggs and by comparison, Gallas just doesn't match up.

The Frenchman lacks the authority, determination and respect to hold such a prestigious position at the club. A good defender, Gallas has proven with numerous misdemeanours (including the tantrum at St Andrews' last year and open criticism of Theo Walcott), that he is not the man to lead Arsenal forward.

But Wenger has made mistakes in appointing captains before. Using the role as a means to keep his best players happy in the past, he gave Thierry Henry the position before his summer move to Barcelona despite having said that he prefers his skippers to play at the back.

Overlooking Gilberto Silva for Gallas last season may have hastened the Brazilian's exit from the club but, more importantly, it proved that Wenger places personal reasons above the team dynamic. Gallas and Henry, while massively important players, were never captain material and, years after the event, Patrick Vieira's departure from the club is still being felt.

Gallas has a hamstring injury ahead of a tough trip to Stoke's Britannia Stadium this weekend and, while cynics may question the validity of the injury in the midst of such criticism, it could work in Arsenal's favour. Ultimately it may force a real leader from within the current squad to reveal themselves.

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