New Captain for Arsenal?

December 31, 2010

Is it time Arsenal had a new captain?

And if so, who should it be? Someone already in the squad? Or a transfer market move for the missing leader so many people have been craving?

This debate has been prompted by some of the points raised in response to Micky’s “Looking Ahead – 2nd Half Term” post.

Micky felt we needed Cesc and Robin van Persie to stay fit for the rest of the season if we’re to have a realistic chance of silverware.

But he also said he would approve of a dip into the January transfer window for a World Class Leader in the mould of Tony Adams or Franck McLintock.

Leaving aside the issues of whether a WCL would be available in January and whether, even if he was, we would be remotely likely to pay the World Class Price Tag that would come with him, Micky’s post raises the vexing question of whether we currently have the right captain at Arsenal.

I can see two arguments against Cesc Fabregas being our captain. The first is that he has missed too much time out through injury in recent seasons. Not his fault, of course, but you really want your captain to be playing in the vast majority of games throughout a season.

The second, more problematic argument against Cesc’s captaincy is whether he is a sufficiently good leader on the pitch.

No-one disputes the supreme level of his skills (or his ability to win games almost single-handedly). The question is, is he the right man to drag his colleagues by the scruffs of their necks to grind out wins in adversity? Is he the sort of person you would want beside you in the trenches like an Adams, a Vieira, a McLintock, a Silvestre? OK, in Silvestre’s case you’d fill in the trench and run away, but you get the point.

It was clear from some of the posts that many Arsenal supporters don’t believe Cesc is that kind of leader and that their preferred captain in our current squad would be Vermaelen.

Cesc is perceived to not be a shouter, to not talk enough to his team mates during the game, to not give sufficient encouragement and bollockings.

Sometimes, in those games where we have been misfiring as a team, I find myself fantasising about how TA6 would have reacted had he been playing.

You know the games I’m talking about – the ones where Song has vanished upfield with a head full of dreams of being Thierry Henry; where Clichy is wandering around picking his nose; where Eboue is running up and down the line grinning at the happiness fairies that only he can see; where Diaby is being out-jumped by midgets; where Walcott is racing up the wing with the speed of a locomotive and a touch to match; where Rosicky has all the shooting prowess of an empty water pistol…

We all know how Tony would react.


He would need new boots for the second half because his original pair would have been planted so far up the arses of his team mates during the half time team talk that they would have studs for teeth.

Which brings us back to Cesc. It seems clear that, like Thierry before him, he was given the armband as part of a strategy to keep him at the club.

I can understand Arsene Wenger’s reasons for doing this, but it devalues the job of captain. Unfortunately this is not something that the boss seems to particularly care about if his past comments are anything to go by: “I think the captain is an important position, but it is not as important as the team spirit. You do not have to over-emphasise the importance of the captaincy.”

He has also said that he has a team of captains on the pitch and has done his best to demonstrate this by passing around the captain’s armband as if it were radioactive. In recent times the following players have all stepped out as Captain of The Arsenal: Fabianksi, Almunia, Nasri, Silvestre, Campbell, Rosicky, Clichy, Squillaci, van Persie and probably others too that I can’t recall.

Obviously part of this is because we have had so many injuries, but it’s a sad state of affairs that one of the great offices available to man has been reduced to this.

I would much prefer us to have a clear structure of captain and vice captain, which should cover us for most games.

My own view is that Cesc can be a great captain for us. He does more talking and encouraging on the pitch than he is given credit for and leads by example with his own bravery and skill.

Where I think he struggles as captain is when his own form is off, as it has been in some of his recent outings. At these times he seems to go more introspective and quiet, which doesn’t help the rest of the team.

But when he’s on fire I believe he has all the required attributes and I hope that in the second half of the season we will come to see him as the inspirational captain for whom we have been waiting. Of course, this also depends on him managing to stay injury-free, which is not a foregone conclusion.

Vermaelen’s day will come, but for now the right role for him (when he returns from injury) is as vice captain to Cesc.



Captain Material – sorry, not Cesc any more….

June 9, 2010

I’m a great admirer of Arsène Wenger, but apart from his apparent myopia when it comes to assessing goalkeepers, it has been some of his choices for captain that have perplexed me the most. It’s as if he doesn’t really respect the status of captain. It should be the pinnacle of any player’s career to captain his club. To use the captaincy as a tool to boost a player’s confidence (Almunia) or to help persuade a want-away to stay at the club (TH14) devalues it’s standing.

We’ve had some magnificent captains over the years peaking (in my opinion) with Tony Adams followed by Patrick Vieira, but I’m sure some of our long-standing supporters will tell me I’m wrong.

Here is a list of our captains since the 1960’s, excluding stand-ins when the captain was unable to play.

Terry Neill N. Ireland Defender 1962 – 1967
Frank McLintock Scotland Defender 1967 – 1973
Allan Ball England Midfielder 1973 – 1975
Eddie Kelly Scotland Midfielder 1975 – 1976
Pat Rice N. Ireland Defender 1976 – 1980
John Hollins England Midfielder 1980 – 1981
David O’Leary Eire Defender 1981 – 1983
Graham Rix England Midfielder 1983 – 1986
Kenny Sanson England Defender 1986 – 1988
Tony Adams England Defender 1988 – 2002
Patrick Vieira France Midfielder 2002 – 2005
Thierry Henry France Striker 2005 – 2007
William Gallas France Defender 2007 – 2008
Cesc Fabregas Spain Midfielder 2008 – 2010

Adams and Vieira had it all. They possessed the qualities I expect from an Arsenal captain. They were inspirational leaders, father figures to the younger players, big buggers, onfield enforcers, not afraid to take a red card for the cause. They were world class players who led from the front. When they spoke, the players listened. When they stood opposite their opposing counterpart in the tunnel, you felt confident. They epitomised what a captain should be and unsurprisingly, they held trophies aloft at the end of the season.

Some would say that being British is important but I don’t agree, the majority of the squad are foreign – which British player could captain our side at the moment?

All this brings me to our last 3 captains; taking them in order:

Theirry Henry: Vieira was a tough act to follow. Henry was already the subject of transfer speculation. As a striker he wasn’t best placed for the captain’s role and his increasingly petulent displays towards the end of his time were not the conduct expected from a leader. His performances would often lift the team, but he was not ideal captain material. There weren’t that many other candidates for captain in the side, but I’d probably have given it to Gilberto up until his departure.

William Gallas: He didn’t last very long and we all know why – a quite appalling dereliction of duty. Did it even occur to him while he was sulking on the halfway line that if the ball had rebounded off the post from the penalty, that he should be hovering to make the clearance?  I’m not sure he ever commanded the respect of  all the players, but he would have lost it after that Birmingham game. He should have been stripped of the captaincy immediately, not at the end of the season.

Cesc Fabregas: As with TH14, I believe Arsène used the captaincy to help keep him at Arsenal – and if it gave us a year or two more it would have been worth it. He is a born leader – more by example, but what an example? The burning passion with which he despatched that penalty against Barca was awe inspiring; the way he ran through the entire totnum defence from the halfway line to score, was magnificent;  coming off the bench against Villa with a 25 minute 2 goal cameo to win us the game showed how he could pick up the team by the scruff of the neck and almost singlehandedly turn things around.

Should Cesc remain captain if he stays? In my opinion no. Although I would expect him to give his all for the Arsenal for as long as he wears the shirt, I don’t see how he can command the full respect of the other players when they know his heart is elsewhere. Who would be a worthy recipient? I would give the armband to Vermaelen or van Persie.

If you wish to give your opinion please place your vote in the poll below.

Footnote: all the best to Swiss Phil, had things been different, he could have been a great player for us. Maybe the way his confidence was destroyed by Drogbreath is a lesson on how fragile a young player can be when put into the spotlight too early.