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Who should be the next Arsenal captain?

Dread it, run from it, the discussion arrives all the same. It is inevitable.

Arsenal v Derby County - Premier League 2 Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy following his most recent disciplinary incident. The armband will shift to a “leadership group” according to Mikel Arteta. There is no timetable for when the club might name a new, permanent captain.

Presumably, that leadership group will include Alexandre Lacazette and Granit Xhaka, who both wore the armband against Southampton at the weekend. With both of them likely to leave the club in the summer, they are not candidates to become permanent captain.

Often, the armband goes to somebody who has been on the roster for a while and understands the traditions and values that are important to the club and its supporters. The longest serving players at the club are Rob Holding, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles (if you consider him as becoming a full, senior playing on July 1, 2017, which was 4 days before Alexandre Lacazette joined). Sead Kolasinac joined the club on a free transfer that same summer. And of course, Hector Bellerin has been at the club for ages but is currently on loan and likely to depart in the summer transfer window.

All signs point to the next permanent Arsenal captain not being named until the run-up to the 2022-23 Premier League season and coming from the group of young players around whom the roster is being rebuilt. With the current youngest captain in the Premier League, Declan Rice (22), possibly on the move next summer to a club where he would likely not be the captain, it’s possible that the Gunners will have the youngest one in the PL, which would be fitting for the club with the current youngest average starting XI in the division.

So let the speculation about who might don the armband next season begin.

The most likely candidates seem obvious, at least to me: Aaron Ramsdale, Kieran Tierney, Gabriel, and Martin Ødegaard. Before I get into a quick breakdown of each guy, I’ll point out that for all the players on the roster, we only have what we see on the field and hear about in the media to go off. We don’t know what the guys are like behind the closed doors of the locker room and on the training ground. Case in point: Granit Xhaka. You wouldn’t see him on the pitch and immediately think “consummate leader and model professional” but by all accounts that’s what he is in the dressing room (well, there was the whole unvaccinated thing, but I digress). There may be a player few people are talking about who is a natural fit for the role.

Aaron Ramsdale: has been at the club for the shortest amount of time of the four most likely candidates. He seems to have a great, positive attitude and is clearly a vocal leader on the field. It’s not unheard of for a keeper to be club captain, but there are some who think the role should go to an outfield player.

Kieran Tierney: would wager he’s the fan favorite to be the next captain. Has that hard-nosed attitude that people love (and helps them ignore his penchant for face-grabbing theatrics). Biggest issue is that he may not have a starting role totally locked down.

Gabriel: the darkhorse among my four favorites. Emotive on the pitch and a leader by example. Genuinely do not know how good his English is and or whether that would even be an impediment (it might not be, even if his command of the language is limited).

Martin Ødegaard: already the captain of Norway and seems to be the vocal leader of the attack when he’s on the pitch. He’s very much Mikel Arteta’s guy and looks to be cementing a place in the starting lineup.

Rob Holding, despite his tenure and having worn the armband this season, isn’t a viable candidate because even if he were to remain in North London, which is by no means a guarantee, it seems odd to name a backup as your club captain.

It’s also possible that the next club captain isn’t on the current roster. I don’t think Arsenal will move for Declan Rice, but say they do. He would immediately be in the running, as would any other “anchor” player expected to be a key contributor.

And not for nothing, I think the question of “who will be the next Arsenal captain” is not nearly as important as some make it out to be. Yes, I realize the irony of writing that at the end of a post specifically on that topic.

I don’t think the captaincy matters that much as long as you have leaders on the roster. The players know who the leaders are, and they don’t need a piece of cloth to tell them who to listen to and look up to in the dressing room. It’ll be the guy everybody naturally looks at when something needs to be said, the guy who gets up of his own accord to encourage everyone when the morale sags, and / or the guy leading by example on the pitch. And those can all be different guys. You can have multiple leaders, each good at motivating the team in their own way. Only one of them can wear the armband at a time, but not having the armband isn’t going to stop them from stepping up when the team needs them to lead.

As long as you have guys who will do “leadership things” at the club, you’re fine. From the outside looking in, Arsenal seem to have plenty of that.

And if all else fails, name Gunnersaurus club captain.