I don’t know about you, but I long for the days when Arsène Wenger used the captaincy as a carrot with which to keep his best players.
You remember those days, right? It started with Vieira, through Henry and Fabregas right through to the Dutch Judas. We’ll ignore the William Gallas episode as I have no idea what Arsène was thinking there. I know that all of those super talented players made for great captains, or indeed a happy team.
However, I feel that the state of affairs back then was infinitely preferable to what we have now and have had for the last four seasons; a captain sat on the bench because he’s either not fit enough, good enough, or both, to get into our first team.
It seems all but certain that the coming season will see Per Mertesacker handed the captain’s armband. In continuing to make this role a largely ceremonial one, I can acknowledge, if not applaud, the manager’s consistency of approach. However, I can’t help but feel that the manager is effectively handicapping his team before a ball has even been kicked.
Arsène has, as we all know, spoken in the past about how he regards the role as a largely ceremonial one and something that us Englishmen get unnecessarily exercised about. I would respectfully disagree with Arsène – obviously.
You don’t need me to tell you about the importance of a good captain – we have a couple of examples in our recent, and not so recent, past. Tony Adams will go down as one of the greatest captains of all time, and whilst he wasn’t quite in the same shouty shouty mode as Mr Adams, Patrick Vieira was a colossus who led by magnificent example.
It is difficult to lead by example if you’re sat behind the manager when the team go 2-0 down early on.
After Vieira went to Juventus, we saw an example of a less-great captain as Thierry Henry glowered and scowled at the young team left in his charge. It was instructive that only a leg-breaking challenge on Eduardo derailed the title challenge that immediately followed Henry’s departure from north London.
What might we have achieved with a better captain than William Gallas that season?
Have I just contradicted myself? I’ll leave it to you to decide.
Suffice to say that I would like to see our club captain on the pitch more often than not next season and, with big Per reduced to pitchside duty for most of this calendar year, that seems unlikely to happen.
In defence of this appointment, I suppose it’s only fair to point out that we’re not exactly brimful with potential captains. For me, there’s four; Koscielny, Ramsey, Cazorla and Cech. And none of these would be perfect choices either.
So, let’s move on to a less divisive subject and the decision from the domestic game’s governing bodies to finally do something about the John Terrys and the Wayne Rooneys of this world. Not before time, either.
That said, I find it interesting that this initiative to improve on the pitch behaviour, has only been put into place as the likes of both Rooney and Terry continue their slide into obscurity.
Better late than never, I guess.
It’s about time that footballers were put in their place regarding their on the pitch conduct.
I know Arsenal haven’t always been angels, but it seems to me that the response to that Old Trafford fracas of 2003 was ever so slightly out of proportion to what had actually happened. Nobody was ever in serious danger of being hurt in the conclusion of that game, not even van Nistelcheat, and yet half the team wound up with suspensions.
And as for the media outrage…
Fast forward 13 years to the dissolution of Spurs title dream at Stamford Bridge (can we?) and the entire Spurs team could be found running around, well, like a bunch of cocks around a football.
Eric Dier could easily have been sent off four times and stayed on the pitch. I know that that this isn’t what the FA, EFL and Premier League are trying to combat but it is part of it.
In trying to enforce a standard of behaviour from the players towards the referee, is it possible that any improvements here might bleed into how players behave towards each other? Yes, you may say, I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one – I can’t believe I just quoted John Lennon’s Imagine, but I did, so I’ll go with it.
Seriously, players who are going out there knowing that any dissent towards a match official will result in a yellow card, that verbal abuse or aggression will result in a red one are more likely to tone down their general behaviour? I know football is a testosteronefest and emotions run high, but I don’t see rugby as being any different and yet respect for the referee in that game is almost total.
I suppose the thing is now that the stakes are so high, it seems difficult for footballers to go out and just play.
Part of the reason I love Santi Cazorla so much, aside from my total belief in his genius, is that he always plays the game with a smile on his face. You don’t see many like that now.
How many can you count in the Arsenal side? Alexis, maybe? Everyone is purely focused on doing a job, rather than enjoying their game.
If the Premier League and co can take the focus off the officials and get a little bit of respect back into the game, perhaps that enjoyment can follow.
One last thing.
Ahead of our November 19th trip to Old Trafford I suppose Jose Mourinho must feel quite grateful that technical area conduct will also be examined much more closely.
That is, assuming he’s still in a job by then…