It`s a little while since I was doing business in France to any significant extent and, while it may have changed a little more recently, at the time I was struck at how formal relations were between different levels of management and employees in many French companies. Whereas here in the UK it was no great surprise, maybe even the norm, if the MD and junior office clerk addressed each other on first name terms a definite hierarchical culture existed in France which prevented them from addressing each other with anything other than title and surname – more Monsieur Wenger rather than Arsene.
Maybe something of this culture still lingers amongst the French in which case it goes someway to explaining the problems we had with William Gallas` relationships with younger, less reverential players. The former doctor for the French national team seems to be telling us that this culture was behind the difficulty that an uppity Nasri has with some of the elder statesmen of the French national team. “He has the gift of really annoying Henry, Gallas & Evra” says Jean-Pierre Paclet in a new book on the world cup travails of the tournament side, “Here was a kid with a dozen caps looking down on players with a hundred. Scarcely believable”
It`s no bad thing in my book if new talent is challenging the comfort of complacent stars expecting to be lauded for what they have done rather than what they are doing. In fact much of the problem of the current French national side seems to be rooted in this tendency to pander to celebrity status. But it can`t be comfortable for Samir Nasri to be painted as though he were something of a loner unable to forge relationships with other players. Though he does seem to be frequently singled out he isn`t alone as Karim Benzema and Ben Arfa have also been marked as troublesome. Yoan Gourcuff who you might imagine would represent a prominent figure in any future French team has also been scornful of the power of the ‘elders’ in the French team.
Nasri is entitled to snort in irony at the decision to leave him out of the world cup squad given the internecine warfare that broke out among the French team. If he can be branded as troublesome by those who then go on to participate in a full scale mutiny then nobody should be too surprised to see him with a smile of smug satisfaction on his face now.
What is important for us is to what extent this impacts on the spirit within the Arsenal team. Nasri`s view of Gallas as someone he, along with others, didn`t communicate with was expressed at the tail end of last season. “I don’t communicate with him, but I’m not the only one at Arsenal who doesn’t have any communication with him. We are four or five, but that doesn’t stop us fighting for each other on the pitch” Samir said at the time. It followed revelations of that hierarchical nature I experienced among the French in Gallas’ earlier autobiography which suggested factionalism on lines of seniority, claiming a lack of respect between the younger and older players, though that doesn`t explain his fall out with Toure. For all I know similar situations may exist at other clubs but still it`s uncomfortable to think that half the team weren`t communicating with a key player.
With the departure of senior players and the natural ageing of our younger players that age differential has closed to a large extent and there is perhaps the potential of better relationships as a consequence. For that to work players like Nasri have to become aware that they need people on their side. Wenger said recently of Gallas “He can be, sometimes, a little bit brutal or impulsive in his reaction.” The greatest irony for Samir would be for him to allow himself to become Gallas mark 2. In a football team there needs to be a time when instead of raging against the machine you have to be prepared to become part of the machine.
The French national team seemed to have decided that sweeping away the old guard was a revolution that was needed. Hopefully Arsenals evolutionary process will ensure we have as unified dressing room as it is possible to achieve.
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