As I impatiently sat on my phone all day refreshing my twitter feed waiting for the “official” media pictures of Čech in an Arsenal kit, I came across a GIF of Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker lifting the FA Cup. While normally seeing your club’s captain lifting any trophy (except for the Emirates Cup of course) sparks a satisfying feeling, I felt rather peculiar and thought, “Can we genuinely challenge for the title with Arteta being our captain?”
Since Patrick Vieira hoisted the Premier League Trophy in 2004, only four players have been given the annual honour to do the same: Gary Neville, John Terry, Nemanja Vidić, and Vincent Kompany. While I absolutely despise the foursome for a plethora of reasons (none more than John Terry.) I have to concede that all are/were great players and more importantly great leaders. If Arsenal were to win next season, does Mike Arteta belong with that list?
It seems to be in agreement amongst everyone that Arteta is a solid player. His ability to find a pass is respectable as is his willingness to stay back and provide balance for Ramsey, Cazorla, or Wilshere to play further forward. And although the Spaniard will never be classified in the class or importance of a Patrick Vieira or Gilberto Silva, he is surely more influential than a Denilson or Alberto Méndez. Arteta is a seasoned veteran that will do the job in most games. But that is not the definition of a title-winning captain.
So what defines a title-winning captain? Two words: leadership and representation. Captains with leadership get the job done, no matter the occasion. They motivate others to transform defeats into draws and draws into victories. As the old saying goes, “Winners find a way to win; losers find a way to lose.”
Furthermore, they represent the club as if they were as if they were a microcosm. Tony Adams was “Mr. Arsenal”. Patrick Vieira had the class, toughness and French nationality that were ever-present throughout The Invincibles. Even John Terry symbolizes the racist Chelsea supporters. All jokes aside, captains who are crowned champions seem to embody their club’s culture.
Although this Arsenal squad supplied more tough and gritty performances this season than in any other recent campaign, most of the club’s breakthrough victories occurred with Arteta on the bench. When Arteta was wearing the armband, Arsenal suffered leaderless displays (with the exception of Alexis) in the defeats against Chelsea and Manchester United and, resultantly, incurred the worst start to a Premier League season for 32 years.
But let’s presume that Arsenal as a team have broken through. The disappointing results in the beginning of last season against Leicester, Spurs, and Hull will now become gutsy, winning performances in the new season. The previous lack of a winning mentality and leadership will no longer dismantle the talent and potential of this squad. So that raises another question- CAN Mikel Arteta make this squad? Surely the emergence of Le Coq, the rumoured addition of Arturo Vidal, and the expectation demanded from either Cazorla or Ramsey to start seemingly makes it highly unlikely for Wenger to give the 33 year-old Arteta minutes.
As I have already stated, I like Arteta. He is a team player and has produced some excellent performances for Arsenal. He says the right things and arguably has the best hair in football. Unfortunately his combination of inconsistent leadership and lack of match-time just does not fit the bill for winning a title.
If Arsenal want another one, a change in captaincy must be considered.