The Curse of The Arsenal Captain

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Over the there have been a few curses on Arsenal Football Club.

We have The Curse of The Arsenal Number 9, which stretches back into the last millennium. Under Arsene Wenger, no one who has worn the number 9 shirt at Arsenal has ever really prospered for a long period of time. Paul Merson, Nicolas Anelka, Davor Suker, Francis Jeffers, Jose Antonio Reyes, Julio Baptista, Eduardo, Park Chu-Young and Lukas Podolski. All either failed at the club under Wenger, or were shipped out within a couple of seasons. Current holder of the shirt is Lucas Perez. The Curse of The Arsenal Number 9 has not yet been broken.

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Then we have The Curse of The Invincibles. When you sell your soul to the devil for a donut, you pay a hefty price. No matter how tasty that donut is, you are forever cursed, forever owned, by the devil. A special place in hell is waiting for you where you are fed donuts for eternity.

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And that is what Arsenal pretty much did when they went invincible. They sold their soul. Since that glorious day in May 2004, we have failed to win another title. It is as if it took half a century of luck, strength and ability, rolled it all together, into just a single season. Of course, the curse has slightly been chipped away with FA Cup wins, but until we win the Premier League title, the Curse of The Invincibles will continue to grow bigger in folklore.

Will The Curse of The Invincibles end up being like Mayo GAA? They have not won the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship since 1951. The story go’s that they will not win another one until every member of the 1951 side is dead. They made the Final this year. Their 5th in 12 seasons. They have lost them all…

Then we come on to The Curse of Aaron Ramsey. We all know how this one go’s. When Aaron Ramsey scores, someone important dies. From Osama bin Laden to Steve Jobs; Whitney Houston to Muammar Gaddafi, Paul Walker, Robin Williams, Richard Attenborough, David Bowie and Alan Rickman. What will it take for Piers Morgan to be added to the list? A hat trick?

It should be of no surprise therefore that over recent years, another curse has attached itself to Arsenal. The Curse of The Arsenal Captain.

 

For an Arsenal captain to have played just 13 games in the last 3 seasons is a shocking statistic.

Current club captain is Per Mertesacker. He is out injured until 2017. With his contract set to expire at the end of the year, talk has already begun that he might return to Hannover 96 on a free in the summer of 2017. A return to his home town club, the city of his birth, to see out his career.

When you add his injury and contract situation, alongside the current form of Laurent Koscielny & Shkodran Mustafi, the development of Rob Holding and the presence of Gabriel, a case could easily be made that we might never see Per Mertesacker in an Arsenal shirt again.

Never playing for Arsenal again is unlikely, but I would be very surprised if, when he does eventually return, he plays another 10 times for the club. He certainly will not make another 10 starts, and will only break in if injuries hit. Even with injuries, Wenger might be tempted to push through Gabriel or Holding, who are much more suited to our current high pressing, defend the half way line, game, than Mertesacker.

So after getting the arm band in the summer, the curse looks likely to hit again.

A little investigation shows this curse has been going on longer than the last 3 seasons. Maybe it will get renamed The Curse of Tony Adams?

Adams captained the club from March 1988 to 2002. 15 seasons as captain. In the next 15 seasons, Arsenal have had 8 captains.

First up was Patrick Vieira. He was long consider heir apparent to Tony Adams. A foreign leader for the foreign legion of Arsenal players. When he became Arsenal captain in 2002, he was 26 and looked set to become an Arsenal legend. He then spent his 3 years at Arsenal engineering a move away from the club before finally being sold in 2005 to Juventus. 3 years as captain.

Next up was Thierry Henry. Given the armband as talisman of the team. The best player, but not necessarily the best captain. He lasted 2 seasons. Then, like Vieira, engineered a move away from the club to Barcelona. Cheers T.

William Gallas was the surprise next choice as Arsenal captain. He was stripped of captaincy after a little more than a year after giving an unauthorised interview where he revealed tensions within the squad which were disruptive to team morale, and suggested that Arsenal’s younger players needed to show more courage if the team were to be successful.

Following up from Gallas was Cesc Fabregas. At the time people felt he maybe got the arm band too early. Barley 2, the argument was that if captain Arsenal young was good enough for Tony Adams, then Cesc could also step up. A young leader for a young team. He last 2 and a bit seasons, going on strike in his last season, heading to the Spanish Grand Prix rather than supporting the team, and buggered off the Barcelona.

It then fell to Robin van Persie to be Arsenal captain. A similar situation to Henry, he was basically given the armband to ensure he stayed at the club when, like with Henry, others around him were leaving. He did stay, for one season, before engineering a move to Manchester United.

Thomas Vermaelen was next in line. He looked an ideal fit. Had been at the club for 3 seasons. Was 26 years old. Was a guaranteed starter. Was an international regular. Was captain of Ajax before he joined us. Was a natural leader. The Arsenal captaincy resulted in injuries and lack of form and 2 years after being given the armband, he was sold to Barcelona.

Vermaelen was replaced by Mikel Arteta. At the time it was a questionable decision. Many pointed to the fact he was already not a 1st team regular. His legs already going. Per Mertesacker was the fans choice in 2014. As captain Arteta started just 6 games. 612 minutes of Premier League football over 2 years. He retired.

Per Mertesacker finally got the armband this summer. An odd decision considering he was already out for the rest of the year injured. And with his contract expiring, likely to leave.

Arsene Wenger should bite the bullet now. Take the armband off Mertesacker and give it to Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman has grown as a leader this season since the Euro’s. He seems to be revelling in being the senior partner.

Laurent Koscielny should be Arsenal captain, and hopefully break the curse.

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Keenos

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