The north London derby clash between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur is not as intense as it used to be and is a much more tactical affair, according to William Gallas who played for both clubs.
The teams meet at the Emirates on Sunday with Arsenal second in the Premier League table, three places ahead of Spurs, but Frenchman Gallas does not think the match will be as feisty as many of the local skirmishes he played in.
“I wouldn’t say the derby is more intense now because I remember playing in this game and it was more intense physically and the impact of the game was more intense too,” the former France defender told Reuters in an interview.
“I hope the derby on Sunday will be electric. I remember 10, 15 or even 20 years ago, all the players were fighting for the ball and running everywhere.
“They always had big arguments on the pitch and I think the fans were very proud to see their players fight hard to win this game.
“Now it changes a little bit. Now it’s more tactical.”
Gallas, 39, spent four years at Arsenal and was club captain for nearly two of them.
He left the club when his contract expired at the end of the 2009-10 season and joined Tottenham, making more than 60 appearances for Spurs between 2010-2013.
“I know it is very difficult for the fans to understand what I did. Some people were very upset and didn’t understand my choice,” explained Gallas, who played 142 games for Arsenal, scoring 17 goals.
“When I arrived in England my priority was to play for a club in London and give everything for that club. When I moved from Chelsea to Arsenal or Arsenal to Tottenham, I think I did everything for the club I played for.”
“In my first game for Tottenham at White Hart Lane some of the fans booed me and it was a little bit hard but I expected it and I was ready. I was focused on what I had to do on the pitch.
“When people swear at me and call me a traitor I always explain myself. Nobody can say that when I was playing that I was not giving 100 percent and that is the most important thing.”
Gallas, who played 84 times for France and was a World Cup finalist in 2006, is not surprised that his former manager Arsene Wenger recently reached the 20-year milestone at the club.
“Maybe he (Wenger) deserves to win the Premier League this year. I met with Wenger a month ago with two other players.
“He was talking about loyalty. Arsene is a manager but first of all he is human and we have to respect that because it is difficult to find loyalty in football now.”
Gallas retired at the age of 37 after a career in which he played for all three of London’s top clubs, winning two league titles with Chelsea.
He now enjoys watching the games as a fan from the comfort of his sofa or as a pundit for French broadcaster SFR Sport.
“It will be an interesting game to watch on Sunday and anything can happen in this game,” he said.
“Arsenal will put pressure on Tottenham that is for sure but they will have to be careful because (Mauricio) Pochettino is a good manager and he knows it’s a big game for the club and the fans.”