Monday 29 May 2017

This incredible stat about Arsenal's club captains might explain everything wrong with the club

By Max McLean

This makes a lot of sense.

Arsenal have never seemed more rudderless than they do right now – after a stunning 3-0 defeat at relegation strugglers Crystal Palace, fans were left wondering who, if anyone, was taking responsibility on the field.

The theoretical answer was Theo Walcott, but the stark reality for Arsene Wenger is that he hasn’t started a club captain in a league game since 2014…

Yes, Mikel Arteta was the last Gunners club captain to start for the club, against Manchester United in a 2-1 home defeat in 2014 – Per Mertesacker was named captain this summer, but has been laid low by injury all season.

And without the big German on the pitch, things are slipping for Arsene Wenger’s men…

In one way, it shouldn’t matter that Arsenal’s club captains have been so pitch-shy in recent years – 11 men still take to the field of play, and the captain’s armband is designated to one of them.

Or at least, that’s the idea. Earlier this month, the north London side were forced to substitute de facto captain Laurent Koscielny at half-time.

Not a problem, until you learn that the club failed to nominate a captain for the second half.

Once again, correlation is not causation – football is influenced by many factors – but Arsenal’s captaincy issues are difficult to ignore, especially in light of pathetic performances like the one at Selhurst Park.

Arsenal’s recent history is filled with fires being put out just in time (numerous top four finishes for example) but the current form book suggests this might be the first time Arsenal are in freefall under Wenger – the team have lost seven games already this year: 2-1, 3-1, 5-1, 3-1, 5-1, 3-1 and 3-0.

The club needs a leader, and one who can actually be on the pitch when plan A is lying in tatters – but who’s it going to be? Laurent Koscielny is getting longer in the tooth, Theo Walcott has tried and failed, while Jack Wilshere doesn’t even play at the club right now.

If Wenger is looking for a mould, he could do worse than to look for inspiration from this guy.

They don’t make them like that any more.

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