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 go ABSOLUTELY FLIPPING MENTAL.
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.