It’s gone on for too long. The lack of inspirational leadership on the pitch at Arsenal has been nothing short of a disaster that has cost the club valuable points and has seen their aspirations of winning the Premier League unravel.
Wenger couldn’t solve the defensive issue in his last few years, but he was also unable to find the other missing piece of the puzzle, which was to appoint a passionate, vocal and commanding presence in a team of individuals who occasionally connected to show glimpses of his finest work.
Koscileny was a decent player, but as a captain he was mute. He never altered his demeanour whether Arsenal were 6-0 to the good or 5-0 down.
He conducted himself as a consummate professional at all times and played through the pain barrier on many occasions but as a Captain, he failed to organise and galvanise the players around him.
Yet, he was hailed as a leader and the heart of Arsenal, which, quite frankly, was bullshit of the highest order !!
I’m convinced that during the worst times, someone like a Tony Adams would have been chewing on the players ears, reminding them what was expected and that they could do much better.
The lingering Adams look across the changing room is the stuff of legends and although you may accuse me of living in the past, perhaps we need to return there to find a player that may not be blessed with all the traditional silky skills that catch the eye, but someone who can dig in, do the simple things well, motivate the slackers and possess the neccessary leadership qualities.
Adams defended resolutely, but it was all the stuff without the ball that defined him. Lots of finger pointing, reminding his backline how to defend and what space to occupy. He shouted (a lot) screamed and barked and wasn’t shy of a crunching tackle, which was usually followed by a shrug of the shoulders for the referee’s benefit and to help him avoid any top pocket action.
Arsenal have simply become fodder for the physical teams and Arsenal players over recent years have faltered and almost given up. There was no one to pick their jaws up off the floor when things weren’t going well and no one to fight, literally, if it was required. No one with the leadership calibre to point at the temple reminding them to focus or point to the badge to stoke the fire.
I’m not endorsing violence on the pitch, but how we miss the shoving and pushing, the handbag encounters of Adams, Keown, Vieira, Flamini and even Grimandi.
One of those names was an exceptional player, but the others were grafters and fighters and when the chips were down and Arsenal were on the receiving end, they mixed up the game to remind the opposition that there were two sides in the contest.
Even the legendary Thierry Henry became combustible, shouting and barking to get better from those around him.
His fiery French passion bubbled over to the point where he dare not receive a pass or the players dare not scuff the ball or give it away.
I’ll use Adams again, simply because many regard him as one of the finest captains the club has ever had.
Can you imagine Ozil and Sanchez being allowed such freedom and latitude in the Arsenal squad ?
Refusing to train or being permitted to train alone, even claiming that they were unfit for games with a ….cold !
They would have received the wrath of a dragon with a migraine. Adams didn’t tolerate much at all and a leg would have to be severed before he’d excuse you. As much as George Graham and Arsene Wenger had success, Adams was a large part of it.
In the film 89, Adams said it was his job to tell the boys what George wanted and he most certainly did, even at such an young age. He was a lion, a natural enforcer. How Arsenal could do with Adams these days.
Look around the modern game and you will note that there are very few players with that type of drive, intensity and leadership. A player with those credentials would be worth as much as Messi or Neymar, but they don’t exist in the numbers that used to.
The modern game with its need for good disciplinary records and mummy mentality have eradicated firm and feisty tackles. It’s diluted the physical nature of the characters within it, making players less reluctant to develop their combustible presence on the pitch.
Emery insists on a clutch of Captains which is complete nonsense. One captain, one vice captain will do nicely and the fact that he thinks it’s acceptable to make Xhaka or Ozzie captain is baffling because neither leads by example or has the leadership standard of a skipper.
If we are looking at captains in this current side, there are only a few candidates. I’ll discount forwards, I’ve never liked strikers as captain. I lean towards defensive players and midfielders simply because they have a better grasp of what’s going on across the pitch.
So in terms of candidates, it has to be Hector Bellerin, who has lots of passion but needs a voice. He’s certainly earned the right and could, in my opinion lead the backline because of his leadership attributes.
Rob Holding would be another that could potentially make the armband his own. He showed plenty of fire against Diego Costa in a memorable clash with the Chelsea Neanderthal in the FA cup final of 2017 but again, he needs to display that more often. Holding can play rough if needed, but he does the simple things which makes him irresistible, he now needs to visit the next level. He needs to show others how it’s done and stop being so bloody polite !
Sokratis would be someone to consider also because of his honest and committed toil. He is a dominant character in his area and gives everything he has to the side. A leader by example but again missing the vocals.
My preferred favourite, will be captain within a few seasons, I’m convinced of it. The player who possesses the immensely required leadership skills to lead Arsenal, maybe in a few years.
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Matteo Guendouzi is the new Cesc Fabregas, brimming with skill and passion. Just watching him gives you the sense that he might bleed if it were required and the site of him slapping the grass when a chance has gone begging is proof of his desire.
He is developing and emerging, mirroring the new Arsenal and is the embodiment of the young Arsenal players, without fear, full of appetite and impervious to those more experienced around him.
Guendouzi will do nicely in a few seasons, when he will have become vital in Arsenal’s midfield. Someone needs to ensure that he doesn’t compromise his character and emotion to become another goody two shoes player who is desperate to please.