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.