A follow up on yesterdays blog about The Curse of The Arsenal Captain.
For the first time in a very long time, it feels we have a team of leaders. A team of captains. A team that can be relied upon to rise to the occasion.
Since the invincibles were demolished, we have always struggled from a leadership point of view. A team too young, a team too inexperienced, a ship without a captain. And we have suffered from it.
I am sure in 2007/08, we would have won the league had the leadership of the team been better. We were top of the league and flying when Eduardo had his leg broken against Birmingham. Our captain, William Gallas, sat on the floor and sulked. Arsenal won 1 of their next 7 games and finished 3rd.
In 2013/14, we were once again top in February. We had led since the 2nd game of the season. And we fell apart. Finished 4th in a one horse race for the title. A run of 2 wins in 9 games. Once again a lack of leadership on the field. A season saved by an FA Cup win. It should have been a league and cup double.
But looking at the time now, it looks different, it feels different. Arsenal have a spine of leaders.
The goal keeper position at Arsenal had been a problemsince before Jens Lehmann left. Whilst Petr Cech has had a couple of off games, what is undeniable is the leadership and experience he has bought to the squad. Cech has played nearly 700 domestic games and capped for his country 124 times. Now retired, there was talk of him being next Arsenal captain in the summer. He captained the side against Liverpool, but ultimately the armband went full time to Per Mertesacker. He is a man who has won everything domestically and on a European stage.
For so long, Laurent Koscielny looked lost without a leader next to him. He would drift positionally and basically struggled. But something seems to happened over this summer. At the Euro’s for France he was the senior partner in all the centre back partnerships. He was the leader of the defence. On his return to Arsenal, due to Mertesacker’s injury, he found himself as the senior centre back, and how he has grown. At 31, he has now been at Arsenal for 6 seasons. A regular for club and country. It has got to the point where the timid Koscielny should now really be Arsenal captain.
Whilst Shkodran Mustafi has not been around the club that long, his leadership was recently praised by Alan Smith; “Those at Arsenal confirm that he is no shrinking violet when it comes to speaking up in the dressing room. A new arrival, maybe, but the 24-year-old is not afraid to say his piece”. You see it on the pitch as well. The way he dealt with Diego Costa in the early exchanges against Chelsea set the tone for the rest of the side. Mustafi is a World Cup winner.
Granit Xhaka: a born leader who will finally bring some grit to Arsenal. That is how The Guardian described Granit Xhaka upon his unveiling. Since then, Arsene Wenger has also commented on his leadership qualities. Last season he was made Borussia Mönchengladbach captain. As he grew as leader and talisman, the team grew around him. He is barely 24, but has already been capped 48 times by Switzerland. A future Arsenal captain? Many on this list could be.
It is over 3 years since I spoke about Aaron Ramsey being next Arsenal captain. Much has changed since then, and he has perhaps fallen down the pecking order a bit. But this is a man who was made the youngest ever Wales captain at the age of 20 years 90 days. He was the key man in Wales’ recent Euro’s run. He has already been at Arsenal 9 years and is 26 in December. He is one of the senior pros at the club. Someone others will look up to.
Whilst Mesut Ozil has never really been a captain, his leadership comes across in his performances. A truly World Class talent, others look to him to perform. When he plays well, the team plays well. Everything go’s through him. German player of the year for 4 of the last 5 seasons , this is a man who is the best German player, in the best German team for 25 years.
When you see the man at the top of the pitch putting in a shift, closing players down, chasing every ball, it changes the mentality of the rest of the side. They all start doing it. For Chile, Sanchez is a God. He is the main man. And he revels in it. Leading the line, he is their superstar. Their game winner. Whilst Claudio Bravo might be captain, Alexis Sanchez is the leader. When he performs, Chile perform. What he brings to Arsenal is the cherry on the cake. The man at the top of the field, over the hill first, leading his troops. 100 caps for his country, he could become a legend for his club.
I will let Arsenal legend Alan Smith’s comments summarise the article;
“Of course, that is how it should be. Strong voices and views go hand in hand with successful teams. Yet Arsenal have not always been blessed with such forthright sorts, whether by coincidence or through a deliberate policy from Arsene Wenger.
“They say that has changed now, that some players speak up with a little more force.”