Who should replace Aubameyang as Arsenal's captain? Rating the candidates
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
Well, that escalated quickly.
In just 72 hours, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has gone from our talismanic top goalscorer, to being stripped of the title of Arsenal Club captain and now faces an extended period out of the team, all because he chose to take a slightly later flight. Very avoidable.
Of course, there is likely more to it than that, but it all feels like an unnecessary piece of drama, or as Deputy Editor Rob Worthington put it, "another plot twist in the soap opera that is Arsenal Football Club".
Anyway, this piece isn't here to delve into the whole polava. If you want a reasoned insight into why this could well be a very poor decision from Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy, check out Rob's piece.
I was planning on taking a deep dive into the stark contrast between our home and away performances so far this season, but this news his taken me down a different route. Now Auba is no longer in the leadership role, we need a new man at the helm. Who should it be? Well, there are plenty of viable candidates, although no obvious choice. They all have their flaws.
Ultimately, the importance of a captain is always overstated. Leadership is very much a soft factor and anyone that know me knows I don't have a lot of time for soft factors. Donning the captain's armband is very much a symbolic honour these days, rather than an actual role that assumes significant responsibility. It's difficult to quantify the impact having a so-called 'great captain' actually has, but people generally seem to think it's important. Essentially we want someone who has a future at the club, is committed to us in the long-term and will actually get game time. All these things are largely just to fulfil the admin of captaincy in my eyes, rather than for them to actually assume some sort of management role or superiority over other players in the dressing room.
So, here are my thoughts about some of the potential candidates.
Granit Xhaka- 3
No. Just no. Everyone is aware of the respect Xhaka holds within the dressing room and that he is a vocal presence on and off the pitch, but we can't. Surely. Once a player is stripped of their captaincy, you can't go back to them. No matter how far he has gone to rebuild the bridges that were torn down after that infamous afternoon at the Emirates when he told our own fans to 'f*ck off', it would undermine the club's authority to give him the armband again.
If we're serious about rebuilding and heading into the future with our new, fresh and improved squad, then reverting to Xhaka would be a step backwards, against this new approach. Let him don the 'invisible armband', but don't award him the physical one.
Alex Lacazette- 5
Similarly to Xhaka, Lacazette is a senior and respected figure in the dressing room. It's likely he'll acquire the armband in the immediate short-term, as in the next few games, but this should merely be an interim role.
Whether he's Ralf Ragnick or Micheal Carrick remains to be seen, but he certainly shouldn't be Pochettino or Ten Haag or whatever. Lacazette quite evidently has no future with the club beyond the end of this season, so appointing him as club captain would not be the right decision in terms of launching this new team forward. As I said previously, with a new, young side, you want someone who can make this role their own for a number of years, committing to the 'project' and being the face of it. Laca will not do that.
I could just about live with him being captain for the duration of this season, although appointing the long-term man as soon as possible is probably advisable. His close links to Auba may also present some sort of issue, although that could be me over-speculating.
Kieran Tierney- 8
Now here's a serious candidate. For large parts of last season, there were calls that this appointment was inevitable once Aubameyang was removed from his post. There seems to be slightly more hesitation now, perhaps due to the emergence of certain other figures, or possibly because the Scotsman's place in the team isn't quite as nailed on as it once was.
Certain people favour captain's operating in more central areas of the pitch, but personally this doesn't bother me. As aforementioned, this is more of a symbolic role than a properly functional one, so as long as it's someone who is going to be here for a while, understands the club and will play a lot, I don't really care. He has the experience and the respect of his teammates, so why not?
Martin Odegaard- 8
For me, alongside KT, the other favourite. Yes, he's only 22, but he's already held a captaincy role at international level for some time, and clearly has some level of responsibility in terms of instructing his teammates on the pitch.
Longevity at the club isn't on his side, but longevity going into the future is. Having just arrived for £35 million, he is surely set to be a key figure in the side as we progress and hopefully rebuild. He has the temperament, as well as the ability, to back up his right to this parabolic role. He's also a member of the squad likely to attract interest from higher powers in the coming years. Assigning him this responsibility may make him more attached to the club, and thus feel more inclined to turn down these potential offers.
Aaron Ramsdale- 6
Everyone's favourite choice at the moment it would seem. I understand why- he's the most likeable member of the squad at this time, is playing excellently and demonstrates 'leadership qualities' on a weekly basis, barking at defenders every 5 minutes.
Having said this, it does feel like a bit of recency bias. He's only been here 4 months, he's only 23- which is extremely young for a goalkeeper- and, for me, his on field personality does demonstrate a little bit of erraticism in his character. You want someone slightly more composed and possibly with more experience at this level, playing for a club of this stature.
Ben White- 7
I know this contradicts a lot of what I said about Ramsdale, but it just feels more right. Maybe it's because the former is a goalkeeper and they just for some reason shouldn't be the captain.
Yes, White has arguably less experience than Ramsdale playing at this level, with just one full Premier League season under his belt, whilst possessing the same experiences at a club of this stature. However, his temperament just seems slightly more mature. He's vocal on the pitch, but in a more calm manner than our number one. He's also supposedly hugely popular in the dressing room. I'd favour both Tierney and Odegaard, but he wouldn't be a poor choice.
These six are undoubtedly the favourites, and are likely part of Arteta's "leadership group", but there are a few outsiders who could well get a look in.
Gabriel Magalhaes 4- Has more experience than the likes of White and Ramsdale, plays every week and is just very good, but I just can't get past the current language barrier that exists.
Thomas Partey 4- One of the more senior members of the squad who might actually be here for a reasonable amount of time, but just doesn't seem like the right character. By all accounts he's one of the more shy members of the dressing room who spends a lot of time in the background, socially.
Bukayo Saka/Emile Smith Rowe 3- I've grouped these two together as they're both outsiders for very much the same reason. Some calls for them to assume leadership roles because of their homegrown nature and genuine fandom for the club, but their respective age's write them off for me. They just aren't big enough characters at this stage of their career, and already have significant responsibility on their hands carrying this team.
Rob Holding 2- Ha. He has captained us multiple times, but I don't think he's a serious contender given his position in the pecking order. A single cameo performance in the league since August. He can lead the team in cup games when basically all of the above aren't featuring, but he's not going to become club captain.
Thanks for reading. I'm genuinely not sure who it's going to be, but I eagerly await the decision, even if I think it ultimately doesn't matter that much.