Former Arsenal and Reading goalkeeper Graham Stake believes that leadership, or lack thereof, was why the Gunners lost 2-1 to Watford on Saturday.
Stake must have been watching Arsenal’s shock defeat to the Hornets at the weekend from between his fingers.
The 36-year-old, who now plays for National League side Eastleigh, believes that Arsenal’s lack of leadership is why they lost to Marco Silva’s Watford side.
“I think leadership played a huge part in the shock results, where Davids found ways to beat Goliaths despite big disparities in budget and talent,” he wrote in his column for the Sun.
“Leaders have become almost extinct within the game.
“Characters and big personalities are few and far between.
“Changing rooms are now filled with technically gifted players with very little to say.
“The likes of Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Patrick Vieira and John Terry has all the obvious characteristics required for the controversial role and at times it boosted their ability or even covered up for their shortcomings.
“At the weekend Chelsea lost to a Palace team rock bottom of the league and yet to score a goal, however, with the return of their leader Mamadou Sakho they seemed buoyant and up for it.
“Arsenal surrendered a one-goal lead to lose in injury time to a revitalised Watford, after the introduction of their leader and brilliant bully-boy Troy Deeney.
“This only highlighted the importance of such a vital player and the effect it has on the rest of the team and its supporters.
“Would a Chelsea team of Terry, Frank Lampard, Branislav Ivanovic and Didier Drogba have lost?
“Would an Arsenal team of Vieira, Sol Campbell, Jens Lehmann and Martin Keown have lost?
“I have been fortunate in my career to be surrounded by so many leaders and natural winners, most notably at Arsenal as part of the Invincibles.
“High standards were set daily, others would have to follow or fall behind and risk falling-out with team-mates.
“Hard work was a given, the desire to compete for every ball and win your individual battle was paramount.
“No player would accept standards dropping and would tell you straight away in front of the team, it would be addressed, solved and everyone would move on – together!”
Although constantly hearing/reading all this talk of ‘leadership’ is more than a little tedious, Stake has a point. The big, title-winning sides had (or have) captains who would kick the players up the back-side if their heads dropped and gee them up when they needed it.
Arsenal, at the moment, don’t appear to have that.
Although Per Mertesacker is the captain, he’s not really a leader.
Petr Cech, despite only being in north London for two years, has the right qualities but doesn’t appear to be applying them properly.
I once thought Jack Wilshere could and would be a good captain but then injuries meant he couldn’t get consistent game time and he disappeared into the background. Now, he could be off. Five years after being given the no.10 shirt.
Stake won the FA Youth Cup with Arsenal’s Young Guns in 2000 but never made a senior league appearance.