We don’t need another article about the toxic situation currently surrounding Arsenal and Granit Xhaka. We’ll leave that to the tabloids.
However, a lot of the problems that have surfaced from Xhaka’s public meltdown center around his appointment as team captain. His leadership skills along with his style of play have been questioned.
It’s been a while since Arsenal have had a proper captain and true team leader. Sadly, players such as Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira don’t come along all the time.
Including Xhaka, the Gunners have had 11 captains since the Premier League era began in 1992.
Here’s a look at those that have served as Arsenal captain.
Adams was appointed captain in 1988 at the age of 21. He remained in this position until he retired following the 2001-2002 campaign.
Adams was a winner and led by example. He was a tenacious defender and became a club legend as he captained the team to two First Division titles (prior to the start of the Premier League), two Premier League trophies, three FA Cups, two League Cups and one European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Adams spent his entire career in the red and white and made 669 appearances for the club. There’s a reason that he is immortalized in bronze outside of Emirates Stadium.
Viera followed Adams as Arsenal’s captain. Like Adams, Vieira was a natural leader who was respected by his teammates and feared by his opponents.
Vieira was the muscle in the heart of the Gunners’ midfield. He was captain when the Invincibles went unbeaten and won the league in 2003-2004. He was also a member of the title winning Arsenal teams in 1997-1998 and 2001-2002 and lifted the FA Cup with the Gunners on three occasions. It was fitting that Vieira scored the winning penalty when Arsenal defeated Manchester United for the 2005 FA Cup trophy.
While Adams and Vieira were great representatives for Arsenal, the team hasn’t been able to find that type of steady leadership since. Here’s a look at the other captains of the Premier League era.
Henry is undoubtedly an Arsenal legend and a proven winner. The club’s all-time leading goal scorer took the captain’s armband when Vieira moved on in 2005.
He served as captain when Arsenal made it to the Champions League Final in 2006. There’s no question that Henry is a natural born leader, but he had limited time in the role as captain. He spent six seasons with the club prior to taking over the captain’s role. He left the Gunners to join Barcelona in 2007.
The wantaway captains
Fabregas became Arsenal captain in 2008 at the age of 21. He was a solid player and respected by his teammates. Unfortunately his heart wasn’t in London and he eventually returned to his boyhood club Barcelona. His move was a disappointment to fans and his legacy was further damaged when he returned to London as a Chelsea player in 2014.
Koscielny was one of Arsenal’s best defenders and led by example. After eight seasons he was named captain by new manager Unai Emery in 2018. He then suffered an Achilles injury which caused him to miss half of last season. Emery stuck with Koscielny and he served as captain for the Europa League final in Baku.
Strangely he ruined his legacy when he rejected a new contract, refused to travel with the team on its pre-season tour and forced through a move to Bordeaux over the summer.
Robin van Persie
Van Persie followed Fabregas in the captain’s role. The Dutchman led his side admirably during the 2011-2012 season while scoring 30 goals.
Van Persie earned the nickname Judas with what came next. After spending eight seasons in North London, the Dutchman refused to sign a new contract. Instead he listened to the “little boy” inside of him and pushed for a move to Manchester United.
Gallas was one of Arsenal’s worst ever captain appointments. He will forever be remembered for his petulant behavior following a 2-2 draw with Birmingham City in 2008. He also criticized teammates which led to Arsene Wenger taking away the captaincy from him mid season.
Vermaelen was a talented and well-liked member of Arsenal’s defense. Unfortunately injuries and poor form put him behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in terms of playing time. He eventually signed for Barcelona in 2014.
Mertesacker served as Arsenal captain for two seasons. The German was popular with the fans and his teammates but was injured for most of the 2016-2017 season. He retired in 2018 and now works as Arsenal’s Academy Manager.
Arteta spent the last five years of his playing career with Arsenal. He served as team captain for two seasons. He was an influential figure in the club’s dressing room and was a part of two FA Cup victories. He is now serving as Manchester City assistant manager under Pep Guardiola.
Time will tell whether Xhaka will remain team captain or if the club will name a replacement.