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Arsenal name their 2019-2020 captain

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Arsenal FC v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

I have long been on record as wondering why having a captain matters to a soccer team. Back in Ye Olden Days, before Sky Sports invented football, the captain was the only person on the pitch that was allowed to talk to the referee, and the captain was often a defender or someone who could see the whole pitch, and could sort of organize traffic and get the team moving as one.

But in the modern game, where players swarm the referee for seemingly any old reason, and players are drilled within an inch of their lives to (theoretically) understand where they should be and what they should be doing, the impact and affect of an on-pitch captain is minimized. As in most sports, there may be some locker-room or training-ground leadership we don’t see; the captain might collect the fines that most teams levy for small violations like being late to training or having the wrong boots or whatever, but at least as a public-facing, game-impacting presence, I’m not convinced that captaincy matters a damn bit.

Which is a great segue into the news that Granit Xhaka is now Arsenal’s captain. Since 1976, Arsenal’s captains have been:

- Pat Rice
- David O’Leary
- Graham Rix
- Kenny Sansom
- Tony Adams
- Patrick Vieira
- Thierry Henry
- William Gallas
- Cesc Fabregas
- Robin van Persie
- Thomas Vermaelen
- Mikel Arteta
- Per Mertesacker
- Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil and Granit Xhaka (Kos being Captain Captain and the rest being Sub-Captain)

And now, Granit Xhaka takes over as solo captain. Longevity matters, I guess. Congratulations to Granit on this honor, and hopefully he’ll lean more towards the Tony Adams than the Thomas Vermaelen.