Xhaka shines as Swiss captain but not so much for Arsenal

Photo by Fanny Schertzer / CC BY 3.0

It wasn’t all that long ago that we were talking about who Emery should install as his long-term captain. The three choices available were clear – Xhaka, Sokratis, and Bellerin. Emery plumped with Xhaka, (or rather the players voted for him) and to be quite honest, we were happy enough.

Fast forward a couple of months and many fans are starting to wonder what the hell the boss was thinking. He should have binned that player ballot and made his own choice. The current captain’s form has fallen off a cliff and his not-so-little outburst at being ironically cheered when subbed off against Palace has seen his stock hit an all-time low.

So what should Emery do in light of his chosen captain’s unsavoury behaviour? Should he publicly back his captain once again or is it time for a change that we all knew was inevitable?

Our money is on a new captain and Xhaka being quietly moved on in January. It’s not necessarily what we want (no one wants to see a good player leave) but it’s perhaps best for all involved.

So who does Emery choose as his next captain?

For weeks now, odds on Arsenal matches have been near impossible to judge. Our form has been consistently inconsistent, and unfortunately, that statement makes perfect sense. There are only a handful of players who can hold their heads high knowing that they’ve put in the required effort to be a first-choice player.

Ordinarily, we wouldn’t be talking too much about form and consistency when speaking of a club captain. A solid player that puts in a decent shift each season is good enough once he has those leadership qualities. Look at Henderson at Liverpool as an example. Here’s a player who is no great shakes on the pitch, but who commands respect from both fans and teammates for his dedication to the club.

Xhaka’s awful stint as captain has changed things. Now more than ever, it’s essential that Emery chooses a captain who is both playing well and shows those leadership qualities.

The choices

Now that things have changed, so too have the options available to Emery. Interestingly though, he now has better options. Perhaps it’s time to consider the likes of Aubameyang as a potential captain.

Yes, there have been whispers of his desire to move on but we don’t believe a word of it. Auba is a good player who always puts in a shift and has the respect of both the fans and the players around him. He also has a pretty good mentality and we can’t imagine him reacting in the way Xhaka did at being booed by his own fans. We don’t say this lightly when we say that Aubameyang would be an exemplary captain.

We suggested Sokratis in the past but we’re not sure that choice would get past the fans. Sokratis has been a good servant to the club but his form would make him a prime target for the fans’ ire.

Then there’s Bellerin. The player who has been through the ranks and who knows the club inside out. He knows what it means to be an Arsenal player through and through and although still young, he would be a considerable upgrade on Xhaka. In fact, it’s likely Bellerin’s age that stood against him when Emery chose his original pool of captains. Although only three years his captain’s junior, it would seem that according to Emery, being 24 is a disadvantage. We can see no other reason why he would fail to choose Hector in his pool. It would seem that Emery is a bit of an ageist.

So who else can we call upon to lead the team? Lacazette is a possibility but he’s a bit of an enigma, isn’t he? No one really knows what he’s thinking or if he’s happy or angry. Not, in our opinion, the most desirable quality in a captain.

Could Luiz be the answer to Emery’s captain woes?

Photo by Tânia Rêgo/ABr / CC BY 3.0 BR

What about David Luiz? He’s got strength of character, has achieved a hell of a lot in his career and made his desire to play for Arsenal clear when he decided to leave Chelsea. He’s quite possibly a player that younger players would look up to as well. And truth be told, he’s the one player that will most likely be on the pitch for 90% of the games we play. It might seem like a strange choice, but if Emery insists on going with experience, then Luiz could be the perfect fit as club captain.

The right decision

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other things to analyze about Emery’s reign at Arsenal and if we’re completely honest, it’s entirely possible that he’ll be gone this time next year. However, in the meantime, it’s hugely important that he gets this right. Another mistake like the Xhaka debacle and we could see the captain’s armband devalued at the club.

He needs to make this decision himself and not through a player poll. Sometimes you need to make a decision that’s best for the team and that may not be the most popular. Look at Roy Keane at United. The Irishman was by no means the most popular player at the club preferring his own company at the best of times. But he was respected by his teammates and the fans.

Choosing a club captain should never be a popularity contest and if Emery persists in his player poll approach, then he risks making it one. Players will choose the person they like the most, it’s human nature. But that doesn’t mean that their favourite teammate is the best man for the job.

If Emery can win something with this squad, then that will obviously rank as his biggest achievement so far at Arsenal. But in the short-term his choice of club captain could prove just as important as any results on the pitch. We can now see how badly a poor choice can affect the club and its fans and so it’s essential that he gets it right this time around.