With the season over, we're taking a break from "what's wrong? what's right?" and all that stuff and asking a few longer-term type questions. With the departure of the current one, though, there's only one question for today:
Who should be Arsenal's next captain?
In sports, the captaincy is often looked to as a place of honour and importance. That, of course, is complete bunk. The captain of a team is largely looked upon as an easy target to heap scorn upon for the ails of a team for not providing the leadership or grit or motivation to his team to push them up a non-existent hill that is poor results.
Such a man who takes up the Arsenal armband will be in for the worse of it from the media and fans, so should already possess a thick skin to go along with claims of his poor play while actually performing very well. Also, should have a winning smile. Therefore, it should come as a surprise to none when, not if, Aaron "Welsh Lightning" Ramsey is named captain.
Though I think there are better candidates out there -- I'm going to align with the other Phil and advocate for Ramsey, as he already captains for his national team and seems to have the intangible components that teams look for in a captain -- I don't see why it wouldn't be Mertesacker.
He's been vice-captain for a few years now, and has played more than Arteta, but Wenger, ever the traditionalist, has allowed Arteta to captain even though he's been doing so nominally, from the sidelines. Side question: If Arsenal were to name an anti-captain, it'd be Gabriel, right?
I'm generally of the opinion that for the most part, the captaincy doesn't matter. In extreme circumstances it can hurt the team (see: Captain William Gallas), but leadership is leadership whether it comes with an armband or not. But if I accept the premise that it's important, and that there are Intangible Qualities that make one a good captain and that having one makes your team better, I'd probably go with Petr Cech.
He's got all the intangibles, after all. He's a Proven Winner, with a few Premier Leagues and a Champions League under his belt. He's a Veteran - turning 34 this week, and over a decade of Premier League experience. And he's a Good Player who's guaranteed to start pretty much every game unless injury rears its ugly head, so we won't have one of those weird situations where Thomas Vermaelen is the captain but he's also a garbage fire of a player so he never actually sees any playing time.
It doesn't really matter that much who the captain is, as far as I can tell, but if it does, Cech would be a really good option. And hey, maybe he could wear a captain's helmet rather than an armband. That would be fun.
I'll step outside the box and say Mesut Ozil. He's not only streets ahead of everyone else in the talent department, but he's the catalyst of an attack that showed a real lack of end-product this past season. Giving him the armband only elevates his authority to hold his teammates even more in check than in previous seasons.
Yes, he's quiet. Yes, he's not the prototypical 'leader' in what could be considered the truest definition. And certainly reinforcing the squad this summer with Talented Players will go a distance towards eliminating the lack of goals scored. But Mesut Ozil is the focal point, the keystone of the team and how we play. Anointing him the captain only seems natural at this point.
Let me say up front that the captaincy absolutely does not matter to me. I liked having the Verminator and ol' Legohair as our captains and didn't care that they didn't play because they were professional and did well being the public face of that group of players in the program notes and whatnot. That said, I think the players look up to whomever is the captain.
Mertesacker makes sense because he's already been vice-captain and has been collecting fines, probably from Jack and Szcz for smoking. Cech makes sense because he's grizzled and I'm sure the team respects him as a guy who has won a bunch. I think he's a good choice. I think Ramsey is a good choice because I feel like he's one of the hearts of the team, but I think Arsene has established a pattern of giving it to more old head/senior player types. Ozil is a perfect angel and I think would make a fine captain but he's always struck me as more withdrawn and maybe not personally interested. If he is, I'd be a thousand percent onboard.
Either way, I don't think we can go wrong. Ultimately, I'd be fine with basically any of Per, Cech, Ramsey, or Ozil.
The captain is mainly the player responsible for writing the program every week, right? He probably should have some experience with Publisher, then, and maybe InDesign and photoshop. If he has previous experience working with different printers and understands the printing workflow from beginning to end, that would also be good. Any foreign language experience a plus as well.
In all honesty, though, I do think the captain has a role to play, mainly behind the scenes, welcoming new players, establishing a good vibe within the squad, and making sure the group feels comfortable. I'd probably go with Petr Cech first (he wears glasses and rides the train, very professional), and then Aaron Ramsey.
Ramsey's been at the club longer than almost anyone now (especially if Theo Walcott leaves) and has experience captaining Wales. I'd be fine with either of them, certainly. Mesut is a sneaky dark horse choice, too.
I think captaincy is nonsense. If these grown men need someone to rah-rah them to victory then this club has some serious issues. That being said, I like the captain to have a blend of talent, experience and intelligence. Petr Cechs all those boxes and then some. He won't be in the middle of the fray pointing and yelling, but he appears to have a quiet air of leadership around him and those who've played with him have nothing but praise for his personality. That's good enough for me.
Have we covered the "captaincy is pointless" thing yet? We have? Oh good, that'll save me some time. I do think that there is some behind-the-curtain value in being the captain; being the guy in the locker room to levy fines for small transgressions or otherwise be the head clown at the rodeo definitely has team-building and other intangible values. But as far as on the pitch? In an era where everyone surrounds the referee at the first hint of INJUSTICE? It doesn't matter at all, from an operational perspective, except that the captain is the guy who gets the other team's pennant and calls the coin toss before the game starts.
So, if Arsenal have some sort of rewards points program for its season ticket holders like a lot of US sports teams do for theirs, I'd say make it an honorary thing and reward season ticket holders with over 10,000 points by allowing them to be the captain for a particular match. On the pitch? Petr Cech. Let him do the coin toss. Otherwise? Let a fan do it, they're the ones who seem to care most about it and will get the most out of it.
It appears I'm the only one who thinks the captaincy kind of means something. Sure, it's hard to quantify any value that role has, if any, but I do think there is some. Mainly, I believe that the wrong appointment can lead to some festering locker room wounds (see: van Persie, Robin). A good captain keeps things even-keeled behind the scenes and has the gravitas from the position, over and above any they have built up by their individual behavior, to mediate rifts that can tear a club's season apart. Though I initially was leaning strongly towards Aaron Ramsey, I have decided Petr Cech is the best choice. He's the most experienced player in the squad, has a great reputation, and is entrenched in the first-team. I think he should, and will, lead the club these next two seasons before handing off the armband.