The role of the captain at Arsenal hangs in the balance once again as Laurent Koscielny looks to be departing or either giving the role over to a more first-team regular. I look at previous Arsenal captains from the old days as well as the more recent captains and give my own opinion on who should be the new Arsenal captain.
When you think of the old-school Arsenal captains you think of the glory days at Highbury and three, in particular, stand out for myself which is Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams and Pat Rice. These players led from the front and by example for the other players in the side to follow and to help young players come through as well.
Pat Rice helped to led us to glory in the 1979 FA Cup Final against Manchester United in the ‘Five-Minute Cup Final’ and also is featured in the top ten list of all time Arsenal appearances with a huge 528 and then after retiring he then went onto serve the club for twenty-eight years as a coach and eighteen of them came as understudy to Arsene Wenger where he helped to guide the club with Arsene to many amazing successes before retiring in 201.
He was an unbelievable right back for the club who has already stated led by example with his play and his love for the football club. He is an old school captain, and this led through to help him with the coaching roles which he took on at Arsenal.
The other one who only played for one club and showed his passion every time he stepped onto that pitch was Mr Arsenal, Tony Adams. Captaining the club for a record fourteen years the centre back made 674 appearances for the gunners which was just behind David O’Leary who is Arsenal’s top appearance scorer.
He was described as a “Born leader” by the legendary Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson as well as “a great leader” by Ian Wright and “Colossus centre half and man-of-men”. This showed as he also captained England for the Euro 1996 tournament and guided them to the semi-finals.
Countless successes came under Tony Adams helping to guide Arsenal to league titles, FA Cups, League cups and European successes under both George Graham and Arsene Wenger.
Patrick Vieira is the next one who I have highlighted even though he was only captain for three seasons he had big shoes to fill after Mr Arsenal left in 2002 and fill them, he did. The feisty Frenchman made 406 appearances for Arsenal and his rivalry with Roy Keane showed his aggressive side but also how he led during those times, when the rivalry over the league title was at its highest with Manchester United and the games at Old Trafford and Highbury, got heated.
He won three Premier League titles at Arsenal and captained the amazing 2003-04 Invincibles season to glory winning the league at White Hart Lane as well as three FA Cup victories and one as captain against Southampton.
What all of these players had as well as a massive ability to play the game is strong leadership which helped to guide the young players through into the first team like Van Persie and Fabregas who then went onto by captains as well. They helped construct a strong Arsenal side around them and lead on and off the pitch which we would find out to be missing in the following times at Arsenal as these where the old-school Arsenal captains.
Last Ten Years
Recently the captaincy at the club has been thrown around and has become more of a ceremonial showpiece rather than an armband to be given to a leader who plays regular football for the club. Our last four captains have Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen.
These players have been injury prone as well as showing time and time again to not be leaders who led by example and from the front. We seem to be the club who is nice to our more experienced players which is good to an extent but when it comes to the captaincy it has to go to a natural leader who plays most weeks and in these cases that didn’t happen.
Let’s look at the appearance numbers during the times these players where captains. Firstly, Thomas Vermaelen who played just twenty-one times during his second season as captain, Mikel Arteta’s record is even worse after playing just eleven times in his first season as captain the club decided to give it to him again in the second season playing just fifteen times.
Per Mertesacker’s record doesn’t make for much better reading as the German played just twice in his first season as captain and then just eleven in the second season as captain before retiring. Last season’s captain of Laurent Koscielny made thirty-three appearances last season which is a good number but only made seventeen in the Premier League which is just under half of the games in the season.
The point is that in recent years we have not had the captain of the old days who would play the majority of the games in a season and fight and lead the club forward. Instead of this, we have had weak and ceremonial captains who don’t play regularly for the club enough to warrant the captain’s armband.
We have lost the old-Arsenal captains for the ceremonial Injury prone players now who are so-called leaders and the armband has just been thrown around the dressing room like Theo Walcott being allowed to wear it on his 100th appearance for the club. Could you imagine Tony Adams handing over the armband like that?
It’s quite frankly because he wouldn’t, and it was a pride and an honour which could only be given out to one player and we need to restore that which brings me onto the next point.
The Next Arsenal Captain?
I think there a few choices for the next Arsenal captain out of our current squad but personally I can’t see a stand out contender for the armband and I think to get this we would have to bring in a leader but what kind of club would want to sell one of their top voices in the dressing room.
I think it boils down to Xhaka, Sokratis or Bellerin. Bellerin is the one which has been spoken about recently in the media as a possible one which would be understandable in my eyes for the fact that he has come through the youth system at Arsenal and has a clear love and passion for the club. However, he does fit into that injury prone category we said earlier about trying to avoid after the captaincies of Mertesacker, Arteta and Vermaelen.
Sokratis has shown that he is a leader in defence this season being commanding in the forty matches that he has played this season as well as being a top class defender he is also experienced at 31 and can scare the players into listening to him as he is a very dominant figure in the dressing room and on the pitch.
Xhaka is the other option that I like as well. He has been someone who has divided opinion at Arsenal during the three seasons he has spent at the club, but he was selected as one of Emery’s captains from last season which shows a level of trust between him and Unai.
He again like Sokratis played forty games in all competitions and has shown a level of leadership especially after the defeat in the Europa League Final making the all of the players go and thank the thousands of fans who had paid thousands of pounds for that crap performance. I would personally be happy with any of these three as the new Arsenal captain and I would love to find another Adams or Rice but the truth is they don’t make them kind of captains who are so loyal to a club and love a club so dearly