Who is Arsenal’s captain?
The Arsenal captaincy is a role as important as it is farcical. Since Patrick Vieira left the club in 2005 the captaincy has been used to denote technical influence to the club rather than actual leadership. Often given to a player as a sweetener to fend off interest from other clubs (or bump up their price if you’re a cynic), the captain’s armband has had a bit of a journey over the past decade or so.
Laurent Koscienly looks likely to move on from the club this summer and with Cech retired the succession of captains has stalled with no clear candidate in sight.
The convention of this century has largely been to give it to the player we most want to keep – Henry, Fabregas, van Persie – which would put it squarely on Ozil’s arm. However, under a new manager we had hoped to see some of the tokenism drift away and the captaincy given to someone who will lead the team as a general of old. Alas, that was not the case.
When Emery took over from Wenger he couldn’t give a straight answer on who the captain would be and then fell back on a rota of sorts with captaincy by committee. There is always hope that he needed to feel his way into the club before making such an important decision and that this year he will appoint a clear leader.
The problem is there is no obvious candidate. Had Aaron Ramsey stayed with the club then he would have been the natural choice – fearless, gifted, tenacious, motivated, energetic, considered, intelligent, respected and reliable. Ramsey is very much a leader, both of people and in his performances.
Sadly we will never see what an Arsenal team lead by a captain of Ramsey’s calibre would have looked like but it does beg the question ‘does the captain actually make a difference?’
Arsenal possesses a rich history of truly great captains from Danskin to Hapgood to McLintock to Adams. A type of player that just doesn’t seem to be present in the modern game.
The front-runner looks to be Granit Xhaka but is that a case of fending off interest from Atletico Madrid or is he the best leader we have? Will Xhaka be the first name on the team sheet or will we have the ignominy of the captaincy yet again being handed to a player who either doesn’t fit into the manager’s plans or just isn’t fit enough to play regularly?
It is plain to see for the average supporter that Arsenal often find themselves rudderless, aimless and listless in far too many matches. Would a proper captain make a difference to that? One would hope so for that is that role of the captain.
We rely on our best players to make something magical happen yet we place no emphasis on direction and motivation. Self-belief is infectious and many of our players drop their heads far too easily. It is a quandary that only Emery can solve but it is clear that the armband needs to restored to its former importance and no longer be used to placate technical players with roving eyes.
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