With Laurent Koscielny refusing to travel with Arsenal to the USA on pre-season tour, it’s time to ask – Is the club and their captains cursed?

Arsenal's French defender Laurent Koscielny keeps an eye on the ball during the UEFA Europa League quarter final, first leg, football match between Arsenal and Napoli at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 11, 2019. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)
Arsenal’s French defender Laurent Koscielny keeps an eye on the ball during the UEFA Europa League quarter final, first leg, football match between Arsenal and Napoli at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 11, 2019. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

When Arsene Wenger took his side through an entire league season unbeaten it was such a remarkable achievement that, looking back at what’s happened since, you have to wonder if he sold the club’s soul for that 2003/04 season.

Things certainly haven’t kicked on as one might expect. Arsenal started a slow, grinding decline on the pitch and the role of captain at the club has been handed around like plague-soaked rag given to the next player likely to leave.

It’s no wonder there are call from some Arsenal fans to give it to Shkodran Mustafi as soon as possible.

Rather than giving the armband to players who are best suited for it, Arsenal have often used the captaincy as a bribe to get players to stay. Once Patrick Vieira left for Italy in 2005, it really started to go wrong.

First, it was given to Thierry Henry. Sure, he is the club’s all-time leading goalscorer but by the time he got the captaincy he’d reached levels of arrogance that made him harder to like.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - AUGUST 31: Thierry Henry assistant manager of Belgium looks on prior to the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Belgium and Gibraltar at Stade Maurice Dufrasne on August 31, 2017 in Liege, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

He left two seasons later after captaining us to a Champions League final defeat.

Then, for reasons we will never understand, William Gallas, already causing a sacrilege by wearing the number 10 shirt, showed us just what a bad captain really looked like.

He was at the club for three years before he left for Spurs on a free having been stripped of the captaincy after only one season and his one-man sit-down protest at Birmingham. Jens Lehmann even admitted they couldn’t believe that Wenger had made him captain. Nobody could.

Arsenal's French defender William Gallas during a training session at the club's complex in London Colney, on March 30, 2010. Arsenal are to play Barcelona in the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League Wednesday. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Arsenal’s French defender William Gallas during a training session at the club’s complex in London Colney, on March 30, 2010. Arsenal are to play Barcelona in the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League Wednesday. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Cesc Fabregas was next up and it could be argued this was a decent call but, of course, he ended up leaving too but not before going on strike. At least he managed three years with the armband even if its powers did turn his legs to silly string the longer he wore it.

Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas celebrates scoring the second goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates stadium, north London on March 20, 2010. AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRK
Arsenal’s Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas celebrates scoring the second goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates stadium, north London on March 20, 2010. AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRK

It was then handed to Robin van Persie, a player who had been cursed by injuries without the pressure of the armband. Miraculously, it seemed to infuse him with some sort of heavenly power as he finally found fitness and form before screwing the club, trying to turn the fans against it, and buggering off to Manchester United where he won them the league a year later.

van persie busacca
BARCELONA, SPAIN – MARCH 08: Robin van Persie of Arsenal reacts as referee Massimo Busacca shows his a red card during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal on March 8, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Thomas Vermaelen has perhaps paid the heaviest price of all Arsenal captains. He wore the armband for two seasons before leaving for Barcelona as well. A great player until he was handed the small bit of cloth, he made only 60 appearances as captain and has played just 65 times, averaging 55 minutes per game, since he left the club for Spain.

Belgium's defender Thomas Vermaelen gestures during a press conference at Le Haillan, south-western France, on June 14, 2016, during the Euro 2016 football tournament. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgium’s defender Thomas Vermaelen gestures during a press conference at Le Haillan, south-western France, on June 14, 2016, during the Euro 2016 football tournament. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

It then found its way to Mikel Arteta who was a superb choice in theory but, again, showed himself to be more of a non-playing captain. He held the position for two seasons before he was forced to retire because of his injury problems. Arteta played just 416 minutes in his final season as Arsenal captain.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02: Captain Mikel Arteta of Arsenal lifts the trophy after their 1-0 win in the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on August 2, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 02: Captain Mikel Arteta of Arsenal lifts the trophy after their 1-0 win in the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on August 2, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Laurent Koscielny was certainly a choice all Arsenal fans could get behind and the Frenchman really looked like he had found a way to end the curse.

Of course, as we now know, he hadn’t.

He’s had the armband for three years now and in that time he’s suffered thigh problems and a facial smash plus his Achilles exploded causing him to miss France winning the World Cup. Now, he’s on strike to force an exit from the club.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal celebrates his team's victory after the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC at Emirates Stadium on January 19, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 19: Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal celebrates his team’s victory after the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC at Emirates Stadium on January 19, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

If Unai Emery thought he could side-step the problem by naming five captains when he first arrived then he was wrong. He just made things worse.

Only two now remain if we assume Koscielny will leave and both drive sections of the fanbase nuts while also being linked with moves away. If the club could find someone daft enough to pay his wages, Mesut Ozil would join Aaron Ramsey and Petr Cech in leaving this summer.

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - MAY 29: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal looks dejected during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN – MAY 29: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal looks dejected during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

That leaves Granit Xhaka, one of the few players to improve at the club under Emery but a player still prone to the most ridiculous brain farts you wonder how me manages to work out how to put the armband around his arm sometimes.

NAPLES, ITALY - APRIL 18: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal prior to the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final Second Leg match between S.S.C. Napoli and Arsenal at Stadio San Paolo on April 18, 2019 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
NAPLES, ITALY – APRIL 18: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal prior to the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final Second Leg match between S.S.C. Napoli and Arsenal at Stadio San Paolo on April 18, 2019 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Of course, despite all this, there is no such thing as a ‘curse’ even if it seems like there is.

The Arsenal captaincy is a microcosm of the club as a whole and who it goes to next may well give us an indication of how things are likely to unfold in the coming seasons.

With three captains going on strike in the last 12 years and two being stripped of the honour, assuming that happens to Koscielny, can any player currently at the club turn it around?

This article first appeared on Paddy Power.