By Richard Clarke

Arsène Wenger has the highest respect for William Gallas and believes that his decision to relieve the French defender of the Arsenal captaincy could turn out be a “new start”.

The 31-year-old has been under intense media scrutiny ever since quotes attributed to him appeared in the French media last week.

As a result, he missed the defeat at Manchester City on Saturday and, two days later, it was announced that Cesc Fabregas would be taking the armband from the Kyiv game onwards.

Despite all that, Wenger holds Gallas in the highest regard and has sympathy for his predicament in recent days.

“I rate William as a player and a man,” said the manager. “I have a big respect for him.  But he was working as a captain in a very difficult media environment.

“He was under big pressure from the press and at some stage you don’t want that high pressure to effect him or the team.

“Suggestions are suggestions, I cannot stop them. But for me William is a player who is committed to the Club.

“I also think he could be stronger as a player now because previously he took all the problems of the team to his heart. I think this could be a new start for him and he can get stronger as a player.”

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24 Nov 2008