Tag Archives: Arsenal Captain

Arsenal’s Spine of Leaders

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.

Petr Cechuntitled

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.

Laurent Koscielny

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.

Shkodran Mustafi

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

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.

Aaron Ramsey

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.

Mesut Ozil

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.

Alexis Sanchez

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.”

Keenos

Note: If your comment is “Cazorla over Ramsey” please understand that is not what we are discussing in this blog. Well done to you for fixating on one single point rather than celebrating finally having a squad of leaders.

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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Who are the contenders for next Arsenal captain?

132Petr Cech:

Pros: Massively experienced, calming influence, captain’s his country, winner

Cons: Goal keeper, ex Chelsea, only been at Arsenal for a year, maybe only has 2 years left at the top level

Per Mertesacker

Pros: Current vice-captain, natural leader, has respect of team mates

Cons: Not guaranteed a starting position, might be gone next summer

Laurent Koscielny

Pros: Been at the club for 6 years, will play every game (if fit)

Cons: Never been a captain, more of a follower than leader, will always miss 5-10 games injured, bit soft

Jack Wilshere

Pros: Arsenal boy, will never leave, fiery, confrontational, fans favourite

Cons: Injured all the time, immature in private life

Aaron Ramsey

Pros: Been at Arsenal 8 years, became Wales captain at just 20, first team starter

Cons: Stripped of Wales captaincy after 18 months, not a fans favourite

Granit Xhaka:

Pros: A born leader, Gladbach captain, confrontational

Cons: Only been at the club 5 minutes

Santi Cazorla

Pros: Experienced, captained Arsenal before

Cons: 32 and never been a permanent captain, not guaranteed a first team place

Alexis Sanchez

Pros: Best player, will always start

Cons: Selfish, never captained anyone, giving captaincy to the best player doesn’t really work

Mesut Ozil

Pros: Other best player, will always start

Cons: Moody, never captained anyone, giving captaincy to the best player doesn’t really work

Keenos

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