The role of a captain

Posted: November 9, 2012 in Arsenal


A captain – the player who’s meant to spur the team on and lead by example. A man who, not only puts his club before anything else, represents everything that the club stands for. The captaincy is, supposedly, meant to be given to a player who you believe is your most consistent performer who’s mistakes since being at the club can be counted in one hand.

Here are a few examples of world class captains who tick all of the aforementioned gaps: Iker Casillas, Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo – the list could go on for quite some time but those three are some of the best captains in Europe, in my opinion.

Thomas Vermaelen is a fantastic defender, no question about it. You can’t question his passion and heart but you can question every other attribute needed to be a captain that Vermaelen doesn’t possess. Vermaelen, before being given the captaincy, was a superb defender; fantastic ball-player and a very powerful approach towards the game. His heading in either box was always flawless and his tackling was always expertly timed. My question is: what’s happened to the Vermaelen from a couple of seasons ago?

Vermaelen was given a massive nod from Arsene Wenger to receive the captaincy following Van Persie’s departure, you couldn’t have faulted that decision at the time. Vermaelen seemed to have it all in his game, bar the odd lapse in concentration. Has all the pressure of leading this team back to its former helm been a blow for Vermaelen’s game? Whatever has happened, it needs to be addressed.

This season, Vermaelen has been awful – that’s not open for debate. We had Montpellier away, Olympiakos at home, both Schalke games, Chelsea at home and Manchester United away. The latter was the most painful to watch as Vermaelen was gifting Van Persie the ball at every given moment. My point is, how can a captain have so many bad games in quick succession when he’s meant to be the most consistent performer at the team. Those mistakes shouldn’t occur that often in a full season, let alone the first three-ish months.

The most worrying thing is that this is becoming a recurring theme with Vermaelen – he’s bombing forward at every given moment and leaving holes in the defence which don’t get covered up. Part of the covering up could be down to the lack of a proper defensive-midfielder, but that’s another blog for another day. QPR away, last season, summed up Thomas Vermaelen perfectly – he was flying forward when we were 1-0 up, continued when they equalised and kept going when they went 2-1 up. I mean, when does it hit him that he HAS to do his job and sit back?

Honestly, I think he’s a class defender when he doesn’t think he’s a make-shift forward. He should really be looking at Mertesacker and learning a few things: 1) Stick close to Mertesacker due to his lack of pace. 2) DEFEND like Mertesacker does. 3) Get forward only when the team have a set-piece. Mertesacker is a very calmly composed defender with 80+ caps for Germany who gets around his lack of pace expertly; Thomas Vermaelen, despite his lack of concentration and an empty skull, is a defender with hardly any set-backs.

Who should’ve been given the captaincy? 

As mentioned in the beginning of this post, consistency is key for being a club captain. So, based on that, I’d say Bacary Sagna should’ve been given the captaincy. I can’t remember the last time Sagna had a bad game, let alone a game as bad as Vermaelen. The only problem with Sagna is the fact that he’s fairly injury prone. Mikel Arteta is another shout, although I don’t think he’d be vocal enough to lead the Arsenal despite his consistency and being one of the first names on the team-sheet.

There are two players who I could see as Arsenal captains, in a few years,  for various reasons: Carl Jenkinson – life-long Arsenal fan, passionate, seems consistent and could turn out to be very vocal. Jack Wilshere – outrageously gifted, passionate, consistency at a supreme level and easily one of the best prospects (if you can even class him as a prospect anymore) in Europe.

To sum this all up, I’ve lost all my patience with Vermaelen. He’s constantly putting in sub-par performances, jeopardizing his position whenever he bombs forward and his concentration levels always drop. For now, I’d say we start Koscielny or even Djourou and just give one of those two a start in the team. Let’s not forget, Koscielny was our best defender last season and that doesn’t wash away so easily; a long run of games for him would be great as he’d partner Mertesacker better than Vermaelen does.


  1. Antonio says:

    Brilliant article, definitely agree with you

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