When Granit Xhaka was appointed Arsenal club captain he seemed destined to break the current captain’s curse but it seems the black magic is strong in this one.
I don’t hate Granit Xhaka like some.
I don’t overly love him either. He’s a very good player who frequently makes very big mistakes. If I’d had the choice, I’d have made Hector Bellerin the club captain, but that’s just me.
Few Arsenal fans would have went for the Swiss midfielder, despite his country also naming him captain and his former club. He clearly has something about him that many of us are missing.
Still, here we are with him appointed and stripped of the captaincy in just a few months. And he was an actual match-playing captain, too.
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 [Hello Pierre].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 played just 65 times, averaging 55 minutes per game, since he left the club for Spain until he moved to Japan where he seems to have found his fitness again.
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.
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 had the armband for three years and, in that time, suffered thigh problems and a facial smash plus his Achilles exploded causing him to miss France winning the World Cup. Then, he went on strike to force an exit from the club.
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.
By the end of the summer, only Xhaka and Mesut Ozil remained from the five he named at the start of his first season in charge. Ozil being named as fifth captain while Emery continues to treat him like sh*t seems more of an insult than an honour.
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.
With three captains going on strike in the last 12 years and three being stripped of the honour, can Aubameyang turn it around or is this just his final step on the way out the door next summer?
A version on parts of this article first appeared on Paddy Power.