x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Wenger tips a stronger Gallas

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, hope's William Gallas will become stronger now that he does not have the pressure of captaining the Gunners.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, hope's William Gallas will become stronger now that he does not have the pressure of captaining the Gunners. Wenger gave Cesc Fabregas the armband on a permanent basis yesterday, and also recalled the French defender to his side for tonight's crucial Champions League Group G game against Dynamo Kiev.

Gallas was stripped of the captaincy and dropped for Saturday's game at Manchester City after criticising his teammates. While refusing to give his reasons, Wenger denied he was wrong to choose the surly centre-back as his captain or that he will be sold in the January transfer window. "He is a player who is committed to the club," he said. "William is a player that I rate and a man that I rate. I have a big respect for him.

"He was working as a captain and under big pressure from the press. "You don't want that pressure to affect him or affect the team. "As a player he took all the problems of the team to heart. "It can be a new start and he can be stronger as a player. For the man and the player I have a big respect. William will play against Kiev, but the captain of the team will be Fabregas. "I believe the captain is the voice of the club towards the outside, and is one of the leaders of the team, but a successful team is a shared leadership inside the dressing room.

"He [Fabregas] will be one of the leaders, but not the only one." Smiling and laughing in training yesterday, you would not think there had been a problem for Gallas. He was the saviour for Arsenal when they met Kiev in September, scoring a late equaliser. The Gunners are unbeaten at home in 21 Champions League games and Wenger has unstinting faith in his side, who have also lost Samir Nasri and Abou Diaby to injuries.

"When you do not win, nobody jumps off the roof, but the frustration does kick in," he said. "It is a good opportunity now for us to show we have strength and ability. You know how it works: you go from fantastic to a catastrophe, but real life is somewhere in between. "Even if we are at the moment frustrated, it is not all doom and gloom. "We have a strong belief in our ability and we have a good opportunity to show we care about the club, believe in our strengths and that we can qualify [from the group stage].

"I think this team will be one of the forces in Europe for years to come." akhan@thenational.ae