With transfer season seemingly in full flow, take note of the unusually giddy Arsenal faithful this time of year; it seems the issue of our club captain has been swept aside for the time being. The first pre-season friendly of the season saw last season’s talisman Aaron Ramsey take the armband from kick off and boy did it look good on the Welshman.
With current captain Thomas Vermaelen looking likely to leave the club this window and if not, he will play second fiddle to Mertesacker and Koscielny; it leaves Arsene Wenger with a decision to make on his leader for the upcoming season.
How important is the captaincy?
Arsenal went through the majority of last season with their captain sitting on the bench which raises the issue of the importance of the official captaincy. It used to be the case that the captain was the team’s talisman and outstanding personality but since Patrick Vieira departed the club in 2002 the captain’s armband has tended to be used as a method of keeping the best player at the club. Also, William Gallas lest we forget.
Giving the captaincy to Vermaelen in 2012 following the departure of Robin Van Persie represented a change in that respect. It is just a shame that there has been such a decline in his position in the squad for his sake. But will we ever have a captain like Tony Adams or Patrick Vieira again? Characters such as these great men are becoming increasingly rare in the modern game especially at the top level.
However, we must not live in the past. If you aren’t to have these extraordinary leaders in your team what you must have is a collective group with great mental strength who will stand up as a group and fight for each other.
Arsene Wenger has managed to create such a group and currently has an increasingly talented squad with some genuine contenders to lead the club to add to the glory of its fantastic FA Cup win last season.
On a day when the England captaincy is up for debate let us consider the candidates to lead Arsenal’s campaign this season.
Thomas Vermaelen – The current club captain seemed like he would be a captain for years to come when first given the job in August 2012 but his form that season took an unexpected drop leading Arsene Wenger to drop him for a crucial Champions League tie against Bayern Munich and has failed to regain a regular spot in the side since.
A transfer to Manchester United has been mooted for the Belgian but even if he was to remain at Arsenal, it’s fair to most would like to avoid another John Terry like moment as we watched TV5 lift the FA cup at the end of last season despite not playing the final.
Per Mertesacker – Recent World cup winner and a clear candidate to take the role as his calming influence over the Arsenal side became clear throughout the season. Recently signed a new long term deal highlighting his importance to Wenger and would be a popular choice amongst the players.
Jack Wilshere – My heart desperately wants Jack to be in line for the Arsenal captaincy but after deliberating over it my mind tells me it will not happen anytime soon.
Recent pictures in the press were not such the big issue some claimed but these proved that Wilshere is still a boy and not a man.
Next season is a big one for Jack, he needs to have a fully fit campaign and show he warrants the number ten shirt and fulfil that ability we saw six years ago when he broke into the team. Only then can he then think about the armband.
Mikel Arteta – Captained Arsenal to their first trophy in nine years. I was not Mikel’s biggest fan last season. At times it looked to me that he was very lucky to be playing for the Arsenal as although his passing stats were always impressive at times he seemed slow and didn’t offer the physicality that was seemingly required in the role he was playing.
However, whether he should have been asked to play this role for so long is a point in his defence. His commitment to the Arsenal however, cannot be questioned but with younger more dynamic midfielders available his influence is likely to decrease.
Aaron Ramsey – Oh what can change in a year. It is perhaps hopeful to say that Arsenal would have won the title if Ramsey had played a full season but the idea that this is a plausible statement was made possible by the midfielder’s incredible form last season. Strength, passion and a load of goals has elevated Ramsey to Arsenal’s main man.
The armband looked natural placed on his arm this weekend just gone and he has the experience of already captaining his country at such a young age. The Welshman’s persona has transformed dramatically in a year and he is now a confident young man who has realised his capabilities and ready to make a real impact on the football world. This season may be too early but he has the makings of being a fine Arsenal captain.
The two likely candidates are Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta as they have captained the side on many occasions and have the respect of the squad as senior members as well as Wenger. This would be a sensible move by the manager allowing continuity that wouldn’t unsettle the squad.
The BFG could well get the nod considering Arteta’s contract has a year to run and there are doubts over the Spaniard’s playing time this year with Arsenal being reported as looking to add a central midfielder to the current squad.
In time I believe that Ramsey or Wilshere could make fine captains. Coming up through the ranks since the age of nine, the romantic in me believes that the captaincy could be the making of Wilshere one day, but first he needs to prove he merits his place as a regular starter in this team.
With or without the armband Ramsey has the potential to be a fantastic leader and these two young men are the future of the club.
Don’t be surprised if there comes a time this year where either could lead the team out as the main man.
Arsenal captain 2014-2015 - Your choice?