In our Transfers that shook the club feature, Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at deals that many may not have seen coming and the impact that they had during their time by using statistical data and pundit remarks.
Arsenal captains rarely stay away from controversy. The newly appointed Granit Xhaka has already landed himself in hot water, irking the Gunners supporters as he was substituted during their recent draw with Crystal Palace.
It could easily be argued that Xhaka is not a popular skipper at the Emirates Stadium, and adds his name to a list of Arsenal captains who have not exactly endeared themselves to the supporters during their time with the armband.
While Xhaka’s more recent predecessors such as Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen all struggled with injury whilst assuming the position, others like William Gallas and the most recent ex-captain in Laurent Koscielny have relinquished the role in more unsporting circumstances.
Therefore, there is surely a case to suggest that Arsenal have not had a successful captain since Patrick Vieira left the club back in 2005 – with the Gunners’ lack of leaders a criticism that is still being put to the squad these days.
While Vieira’s effect at the club is clear – with three league titles and four FA Cups during a nine-season stay at Highbury, the club’s downturn of fortunes upon his exit was stark – with the Gunners finishing outside the top three of the Premier League for the first time since his arrival in the following season, and Arsenal would famously embark on eight seasons without a major trophy before a long overdue FA Cup success in 2014.
Even with the likes of ‘Invincible’ squad members such as Thierry Henry, Gilberto Silva and Ashley Cole, Vieira’s departure coincided with the team fighting for a Champions League place rather than the title – an objective which has hardly changed since.
Henry was unable to lead the Gunners to European glory after taking over responsibilities from his compatriot, and since then, the effectiveness of the Arsenal armband has endured a chequered period.
Gallas – Henry’s successor – infamously threw a strop as their 2007/08 title challenge was derailed at Birmingham City, before publicly criticising his teammates, which led to 21-year-old Cesc Fabregas taking over as skipper a few months later.
Arsene Wenger had to deny the midfielder had not gone on strike as Barcelona eventually took Fabregas back to Spain, while Robin van Persie jumped ship once the opportunity to join rivals Manchester United arose.
Vermaelen lifted Arsenal’s first trophy for almost a decade, but made just seven league starts in 2013/14 and was an unused sub in their dramatic win over Hull City at Wembley.
Similarly, when Arteta did the same a year later, he made six league starts all year – and played no part of their cup run.
Perhaps even more bizarrely, Mertesacker’s only start in his first season as captain came in their cup final victory over Chelsea in 2017, before ending his Arsenal playing career without incident.
But the same could not be said for Koscielny, who departed in disgraceful circumstances, having compounded Europa League final misery by refusing to play for the Gunners in pre-season, and forcing a move to Bordeaux.
It shows just how far Arsenal have fallen, and whatever fate awaits the beleaguered Xhaka after the events of the weekend, it seems he will be the latest player to be some way off emulating the Invincible Vieira.
Arsenal fans, should Xhaka remain as captain? Who should take over? Join the discussion in the comments below!Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!