By Richard Clarke

At one stage, Arsène Wenger thought that he might lose William Gallas to AC Milan.

In the build-up to the transfer deadline, the French defender requested to leave Chelsea, the club who wanted to sign Ashley Cole. Wenger talked openly of his admiration for Gallas and a swap deal was eventually hammered out with an additional £5 million coming to Arsenal. However in his first press conference after the conclusion of the deal, Wenger revealed how it nearly did not come off.

"I think William had made his mind up that Chelsea was over for him," said the manager. "But frankly I never had a deep conversation with him about that.

"He wanted to join us but at the start I thought he was going to AC Milan. I never felt I could bring Gallas in here because I thought it was a done deal with AC Milan. The chance to join us came very, very late.

"We lost a world class player who wanted to go and we gained a world class player who wanted to come here.

"So it's good for both clubs, Chelsea are happy and we are happy. Cole is happy to be at Chelsea, Gallas is happy to be at Arsenal."

Finally, that seemed to be the end of the saga until earlier this week when Chelsea released a statement suggesting Gallas had said he would not play at his best if he was forced to stay with Jose Mourinho's side.

"I was surprised," said Wenger when asked about it. "I can only say that whenever I've seen Gallas play for Chelsea he always made our lives very difficult and gave absolutely everything.

"I was surprised by it and why they did it I don't know. But Chelsea can answer that much better than I can and I think you should judge a player on his performances rather than anything else.

"For me, the statement was not disappointing because I feel he will give his best for us. He came out with a statement and made it absolutely clear. He denied it and you will not be surprised that I will take my player's side over Chelsea."

6/1 - Arsenal v Middlesbrough: Julio Baptista to score the first goal


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Richard Clarke 8 Sep 2006