Mikel Arteta is big on loyalty, for all the talk about his progressive style of coaching, the foundations are solid, old fashioned values including good conduct, timekeeping, professionalism, respect, and loyalty as I already mentioned, with the latter being severely tested in the case of his captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The hit man’s form has fluctuated alarmingly this term with several ordinary or dreadful performances in which goals have seemed impossible to come by and this is causing concern, perhaps not at the club, but within the fan base.
As an Arsenal captain, Aubameyang needs to show leadership skills that reflect in his performances and which can inspire others, but to be honest, Arteta has made a rod for his own back by making his best player and highest earner his captain.
Some players wear the armband with ease and on occasion, it contributes to an even higher level of performance but in this instance, it appears to be weighing him down. Worse still, if you were a football fan that had to identify the club’s captain without the visual aid of an armband, you wouldn’t be pointing in Aubameyang’s direction.
Who knows what is truly troubling the Gabon striker this season but the fact remains that there are players within the Arsenal squad that are showing more leadership qualities than the number 14 at present. I’m all for loyalty in certain circumstances, but football is a brutal sport of achievement and has no room for sentiment. As highly as I rate PEA as a striker, I’m less inclined to favour him with the Captaincy because of the general lack of contribution and influence.
At present major bookmakers globally like the aussie casino are listing favourable odds on players like Leno and Bellerin on succeeding Aubameyang as the next Arsenal captain and it might not be much longer before that happens.
The majority of Arsenal fans are being patient with the striker even though, he has been patchy at best. His wages have been cited by some as the root cause for his dip in form and motivation, some have even been bold enough to say that his best days are behind him which I find hard to believe, but one can’t deny there is a problem.
In the sedate world of international cricket, reputations are often dispensed with for the good of the team and the selection panel has shown previously that making your top player the captain isn’t always the best choice. Ian Botham, David Gower, and Andrew Flintoff have all been installed in the captain’s hot seat only to be removed when the performances failed to deliver the goods for them as individuals, or more importantly, for the side as a whole.
It’s an awkward situation but even the gentlemanly game of Cricket can be cut-throat when it needs to be and with a few Arsenal players showing the necessary attributes of captain, Aubameyang would do well to glance over his shoulder.
Although he’s young, Kieran Tierney is a naturally competitive player whose heart is firmly attached to his sleeve. He shows his desire to win with an unforgiving, aggressive, and combative style that is rather infectious and it’s something that has made him an instant hit with fans. However, it’s too early to be looking at the former Celtic man for this particular honour.
David Luiz is heavily involved with the youngsters at the club and despite what anyone says, he leads players and they follow. He has had his issues during his Arsenal career but he never shirks responsibility or runs for cover. He is also held in high regard by those around him at both managerial and playing levels and talk of a contract extension is a no-brainer.
Alexandre Lacazette has been given the armband in the past and has still given his typically fiery French performance combined with a tireless work rate. He certainly enjoys the challenge and regardless of what some might say, he makes a huge contribution to Arsenal’s attack, with or without goals.
So who else is there? Bellerin can’t hold down a regular place, Partey doesn’t feel like he’s a natural fit. We’ve already been there with Xhaka and both Saka and ESR are too young to even consider. Gabriel, although a fine player, isn’t made of the right stuff and Holding and Mari would indicate a lack of choice and credibility. Then, we are on the rotation express for players who come and go in the first team such as Willian, Pepe, and Elneny, so I think it’s fair to say that we’ve exhausted all other available choices.
In a season of rebuilding, Arteta appears to have made his first real mistake by allowing his heart to rule his head, yet he is, perhaps, going to have to make that difficult decision whether he likes it or not. Aubameyang is a combustible character and was no stranger to challenging his paymasters at Dortmund and he has broken some “non-negotiables” since Arteta took charge by ignoring Covid-19 protocols and arriving late on match day, neither of which show good judgement or convince us that he is captain material.
I’m not kicking the player while he’s down, but it’s clear to most observers that he isn’t cut out for the role or levels of responsibility, few are in all honesty. Name me ten Arsenal captains that you feel have been a credit to themselves and the club consistently, other than McLintock, Adams, Vieira, and Henry. I doubt you’ll get past four, that’s how hard it is to find players that have the natural gift of football leadership and it’s becoming even rarer today.