Arsenal appoint the wrong people as captain for the wrong reasons

MATT BARLOW: Arsenal appoint the wrong people as captain for the wrong reasons in a role that has become a bad joke… Aubameyang has shown that giving your best player the armband simply doesn’t work

  • The role of Arsenal captain has quickly become a joke in the football world  
  • The club have consistently appointed people as skipper for the wrong reasons  
  • Arsene Wenger started the idea of honouring his top stars he wanted to keep 
  • But the likes of Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas all left the club anyway  

The Arsenal captaincy, once among the highest honours in English football, has become a bad joke in 15 years since the club left Highbury for the Emirates Stadium.

Perhaps the office is cursed, as some quipped when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lost the job, or perhaps simply an object lesson in the perils of decorating the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

Arsene Wenger hatched the idea of using the role as a last desperate ploy to quell the exodus of his best players, starting with Thierry Henry. Not that it stopped Henry leaving for Barcelona after the final season of his first spell fizzled out. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s failure as Arsenal captain has led to claims the role is cursed 

Nor did it deter Cesc Fabregas, another ‘best player’ appointment, from sulking off to Barcelona, or Robin van Persie running down his contract and signing for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

William Gallas appeared a strange choice from the start. Some sort of bizarre My Fair Lady experiment by Professor Wenger, curious to know if his powers extended to transforming the class rebel into leadership material. They didn’t. 

Gallas was deposed after public criticism, his era epitomised by a petulant sit-down protest on the pitch after a damaging draw at Birmingham City. Then he joined Tottenham as if to confirm how little he understood Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger started the idea of giving the captaincy to his best players, a move intended to keep the likes of Thierry Henry at the club

But that didn’t stop Henry from departing, while Cesc Fabregas shortly followed suit 

Some Wenger appointments made sense. Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker were solid pros, experienced role models and intelligent communicators, but they ran quickly into fitness issues. Arteta reached a stage where he barely played. Mertesacker started one game in the season he became captain, the FA Cup final.

Unai Emery tried to fudge the issue with five captains. Three were soon gone. Aaron Ramsey ran down his contract and walked out. Petr Cech retired and moved into an executive role at Chelsea.

Laurent Koscielny ruined his reputation for dependability by refusing to join a pre-season tour to force a move to Bordeaux. Mesut Ozil did stick around, setting a terrible example for £350,000 a week as if to personify Arsenal’s utter loss of judgment.

Aubameyang was the flamboyant, star man who was given the armband, but his reign summed up how the club always appoint the wrong people for the wrong reasons

Granit Xhaka, the last of the original Emery Five still standing, was stripped of the captaincy when he clashed with fans, yelling ‘f*** off’ at them as they jeered him from the pitch in the dying days of Emery’s tenure.

Then came Aubameyang, flamboyant star man, attracting interest from elsewhere, taking the farce full circle to Wenger’s misguided bid to keep Henry.

‘Arsenal have a great history of wonderful captains like Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams,’ Aubameyang wrote in his first programme notes as skipper. ‘It is a privilege to follow in their footsteps. I will honour the armband by doing my very best on and off the pitch.’ 

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