Should Willie stay or should he go now?

By Avenell Dave

There's no doubt in my mind that William Gallas is a quality defender.

An international for France and with the experience to justify his seniority at Arsenal, he has been a fine player for us over the years.

Gallas is a big personality and I can understand why he was appointed as Arsenal captain even though it may not have been the best decision Arsene Wenger ever made.

The way he sat down at Birmingham City three seasons ago, the rants and criticism that came out about his own players suggested that fine player that he is, being captain was not best suited to Monsieur Gallas.

The fact that his form seemed to improve after being stripped of the armband suggests that he had the determination and the focus to stand up and carry on and for that he has to be appaluded.

But Arsene Wenger has to let Gallas go this summer for a number of reasons - and his comments yesterday did not seem unoquivocal about his former captain remaingin at the club.

Gallas has spent the last couple of months of this and last season injured, suggesting that his long term fitness is on the wane.

Wenger is obsessed with fitness data and is very wary of offering players contracts after the age of 30, which is why one year delas are the norm.

Gallas has played at the top level for many years and has probably got a couple of years left in him, especially if he plays at a less intense level such as in France, where he has been linked with a return after nine years away.

But when he signed for Arsenal, the dela almost foundered on his wage demands and, understandably, he wanted a big contract at this crucial point in his career.

Arsenal agreed and made him one of their highest paid players and I wonder how willing he will be now to accept a cut in his income when as his career draws to a close.

But there is another more fundamental reason why Gallas should go.

Simply - he and Thomas Vermaelen simply don't work as a centre-back pairing.

Both players are fine defenders on their day and can make great tackles as well as scoring crucial goals but they are so similar and lack the talents to cut out the number of goals we have conceded in recent seasons.

Of course, you oculd blame Manuel Almunia for his inept goalkeeping, you could question Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy for not cutting out the crosses that they so often allow to get through.

But the fact is that neither Gallas nor Vermaelen is the tall, brutal and uncompromising central defender Arsenal have lacked since Martin Keown and Tony Adams retired.

Sol Campbell was also that sort of player and we've seen since his return how much he has brought to the club both on and off the field.

But at 35, he is no spring chicken and we need someone with his skills but ten years younger.

Vermaelen has shown this season that he is a fine footballer and he will get even better, but he needs someone who thinks more defensively alongside him to put his head where it hurts, to cover when the Belgian bursts forward and to win those balls Thomas simply cannot reach in the air.

Wenger will buy a defender this summer - and assuming Mikael Silvestre leaves as we all expect him to, I do hope Sol stays as a supporting squad member and a new first choice defender arrives to provide the grit we've sorely been missing.