There was a time when the Arsenal squad was filled with leaders. It is not necessarily a reference to the Invincibles, it refers to the squad that was existent not more than 5 years ago. Arsenal had experienced international team captains like Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin in the squad, along with newly recruited Everton captain Mikel Arteta.
Yes, it is not that Arsenal achieved anything big at that time, but a third place finish at the end of 11-12 when Manchester City and Manchester United were at their peak, and when Chelsea had a successful European season, is indeed a great achievement considering the relative inexperience and weaknesses the squad had.
Today, it is a lot better Arsenal squad having been patiently built over the years by Arsene Wenger. There are two to three internationals for almost every position. There is probably scarcity of required quality at center forward and holding midfield, but apart from that it is a well-equipped squad having every capability to win the title. So then, what has been stopping them from winning it?
It is widely said that Arsenal have failed to replace Robin van Persie. True indeed, that Arsenal have failed to replace Robin van Persie. Not only in terms of a striker, but also in terms of a leader. He was a fantastic captain for the Gunners in the solitary season that he was, take nothing away from that. Both as a captain and a striker, he single-handedly bailed out Arsenal in many matches. And that’s the footballer who has been failed to be replaced.
There have been the Thomas Vermaelens, the Mikel Artetas and the Per Mertesackers, but none of them have lived up to the leader that RvP was. And that has had a very huge say in Arsenal not winning the title this season, combined with positional scarcities.
The accusations that Arsenal players don’t have the mental strength and character to win the title have all been proved right. To have the required mental strength and toughness, it is required to have an aggressive leader. A leader who loves the club, who desires to win, and who wants to fight. He should lift the team when it is down, and ensure that the aggression is maintained in the game throughout. For boys win matches, men win championships.
So the question arises. Now that Arteta is leaving the club for sure, at least as a player, who should be taking up the captain’s armband for Arsenal next season? There’s Per Mertesacker, the current vice captain, and Santi Cazorla who has captained Arsenal in the absence of the aforementioned both. Petr Cech was the third captain of the Blues during his time at West London, but one common factor among the three of them is that all are ageing.
As much as it is almost certain that all three of them if fit will be starters, Arsenal wouldn’t want to face a situation that they are facing now when they all become old enough to either leave the club or retire. Age is bound to take its toll on their performances sooner rather than later. Arsenal need a long term solution. When we turn towards the youngsters, and more specifically at the British core, the first players one would look at are Ramsey and Wilshere.
Aaron Ramsey has the experience of captaincy, having captained for a brief period of time the Welsh National Team that is soon going to ply its trade in the Euros. Wilshere on the other hand has a slightly lower level of experience of captaincy. He captained his school football team and Arsenal U16’s to success, and has been regarded by Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson alike as the potential future captain of Arsenal and England.
That’s just not about it. Jack Wilshere is inherently a true fighter, and one of the most talented footballers in the world when he is fit. He is a certain starter for Arsenal and on his day, he can break apart world-class midfields single-handedly (in reference to the 2-1 win against Barcelona). He is extremely passionate about the club, and has the desire to win every match.
Basically, he possesses the qualities required for a captain that were mentioned before. But no conclusion can be made without discussing its cons. There is a fine line between aggression and temper. Wilshere has always had temper issues, and he is also known for his off-field antics like smoking, being at nightclubs etc.
They are however a direct consequence of him being off the pitch for an unnaturally long period of time. In the last 5 seasons, he was injured for a longer time than fit. He didn’t have matches to focus upon or a form to worry about. But once he gets back to regular football, his off-field antics are bound to shut down.
More so if he is given the captain’s armband. Being the captain of the club he has loved and been passionate about throughout his life will surely make him a more responsible person. That, combined with him being fit, will transform him to one of best players in the league and the leader Arsenal have been looking for all these years.
After all, he was always destined for greatness. It is only a matter of time, and some fitness. There has never been doubts over his quality.