Saturday, 3 April 2010

Livid and pissed off: How France feels about Wenger over Gallas... and it could be Capello, Ferguson and Rooney next

THE French civil war has been declared. Verbally, it's a massacre as the slightly mad Raymond Domenech gets stuck in to vaguely crazy compatriot Arsene Wenger over his selection of William Gallas against Barcelona on Wednesday.

The words "Livid", "outraged" and even "pissed off" are flying. In English. I hate to think what all that sounds like in French as Domenech, 58, an international full-back born in Lyon, leads the assault against Wenger, 60, who never got close to a French cap after being born in German-speaking Strasbourg.

And you can understand Domenech's argument. Imagine if Rio Ferdinand had been injured for months and was just approaching full fitness. After just TWO full fitness sessions he is allowed to play - and survives barely 40 minutes before a relapse of his calf strain. Now, according to Wenger and the Arsenal medics, Gallas is out for five weeks. And that could be it for France and the man they hoped would provide leadership and a solid backbone at the World Cup.

Of course, this scenario could yet happen for England boss Fabio Capello - with Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney both requiring significant nursing to get to South Africa. And don't be surprised if Spain come out with similar complaints against Wenger soon - he allowed Cesc Fabregas to play despite injuring the same leg in the same place before the Barcelona clash against Birmingham last season.

But for now, we can concentrate on the Gallas situation - and change his name to Rooney, Lampard, Fabregas or (hopefully) Messi or Ronaldo as the countdown to the big June 11 kick-off in Soccer City approaches. And as Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson would always say: "It's the club that pays the wages."

Gallas last played on February 10 when he first went down with his calf problem. At the same time there were contract talks and Roma representatives were allegedly hovering.

Some thought we had seen the last of the Frenchman, a leader, an inspiration - and an occasional sulker. But he did battle back - and had enjoyed just two full training sessions before the Barcelona game.

I said at the time, that epic result might have ended Arsenal's season. They lost Andrei Arshavin, Fabregas and Gallas to gain a result which leaves them with little chance of progress at the Nou Camp next week. Ironically Gallas went off before half-time, after seeing the Gunners comprehensively outplayed for 42 minutes. And, like the injured Arshavin, he saw none of the goals in a magnificent come-from-behind 2-2 draw.

Afterwards, Wenger said: "I took a gamble that didn't pay off. I can say I regret that now. He will be out for a minumum of five weeks."

He didn't look all that upset in the press conference. And that didn't help Domenech's mood as he prepares for France's pre-World Cup training camp starts on May 18. Domenech, always under pressure in the French hot-seat, said: "It's outrageous and irresponsible to have played him so early after the injury. It's scandalous. I'm livid and pissed off. He'd better be fit for the World Cup."

But Wenger, like Sir Alex Ferguson when it comes to Rooney later in the month, responded: "We have to first take care of the interests of Arsenal. The French team is important but so is Arsenal and William is paid by the club, not by the French team. We have to use the players when they declare themselves fit.

"I believe he declared himself fit and I have the reports from the rehabilitation centre where he worked for 10 days and he had four days training with the team. Maybe we should have taken some more time but he was jumping, running up and down the stairs in France, and he had very hard sessions. I don't think this will cost him his World Cup."

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