Arsenal’s captain Mikel Arteta has undoubtedly been an admirable leader of the team since gaining captaincy from Thomas Vermaelen last year. Despite that and the recent signing of a year long contract extension, Arteta is ageing and will most likely depart the club in 2016.
The natural successor to Arteta would be current Arsenal vice-captain, Per Mertesacker. The 30-year-old made over 40 appearances last season but despite doing a good job in the heart of the Gunners’ defence, Arsenal’s rising stars, Gabriel Paulista and Calum Chambers are looking closer to stealing his spot.
With the chances of Mertesacker becoming more of a squad player by the 16/17 season, and at the risk of Arsenal naming their third backroom/bench captain in a row, other options must be considered. As a result, here are five options which may leave Arsenal with a true next captain, both on and off the field.
As arguably many an Arsenal fan’s first choice for next captain, the young Welshman appears to have all the factors to become a successful Arsenal captain. Ramsey is only 24 and as a result, has the potential to spend the next decade at Arsenal.
Despite being young, Ramsey has moulded a near guaranteed starting position for himself thanks to an incredible 13/14 campaign and a respectable follow up year in the 14/15 campaign.
Again, despite only being 24, Ramsey has appeared for the Arsenal over 150 times and thus has great levels of experience working with his fellow teammates and manager, Arsene Wenger.
Being a central midfielder, Ramsey has easy routes of communication to virtually all of his teammates on the pitch. This combined with Ramsey’s know how in both offensive and defensive areas will give him an edge if he were put in a leadership role.
If Arsenal were ever looking for a long-term active captain within their ranks, Ramsey would be near if not at the very top of their list. Many who have debated Arsenal’s captaincy have Ramsey as their pick as future leader and so they should.
The Gunners’ current third-captain would be another top choice for the permanent captaincy for many reasons. Having led the side out on several occasions, Cazorla has had the vital experience of being an on-field captain.
A couple of issues stand in the way however, of a successful term as a full Arsenal captain for Cazorla. Firstly, as he is 30, time is not on Cazorla’s side if his wish is to become a long-term captain, though a shorter tenure would still be possible.
Alongside that, the confirmation of Özil as the starting ten, and potentially Ramsey and Francis Coquelin pairing up in front of the defense for the new season, Cazorla faces tough starting XI competition irrespective of his versatility.
Despite these issues, Cazorla has a lot of factors favouring a stint of him as captain.
His positive attitude, great relationship with teammates, and exceptional vision on the pitch all favour Cazorla stepping up to be a full time captain. Add in over 100 appearances for Arsenal in his three-year career at the club and it would be easy to see Cazorla fitting into the role.
As Mertesacker’s partner in crime at the heart of the Arsenal defence, Koscielny has the experience and seniority to be able to handle the role of captain.
The 29-year-old Frenchman has developed into one of the best center backs in the league in his 150 appearances for Arsenal while forming a formidable partner with the big German.
Though it is possible to see Mertesacker eventually sliding into more of a rotational role in defence, it is hard to see Koscielny suffering the same fate just yet. As a commanding presence, Koscielny is adept in setting his defence up around him and has a great connection with all of his teammates.
With the ability to see the entirety of his team around him and with the comfort of Petr Cech behind him, there is no doubt that Koscielny would be able to slip into a leadership role in this Arsenal side with ease.
While the Frenchman would have to become more of a vocal force on the pitch if he were to take up to role, there is no doubt that Koscielny could step up to that plate if required as one of the Gunners’ senior members now.
While Walcott may be a less obvious choice for the Arsenal captaincy, being just 26 and yet the longest serving current Arsenal player are factors that cannot be ignored.
In a move similar to that of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, Walcott could establish himself as Arsenal’s starting striker, then being given the responsibility of leadership. This is not beyond the realms of possibility as Walcott’s over 200 appearances and 9 years of service make him a great candidate for captaincy.
Presenting Walcott with captaincy would also force a level of maturity out of the 26-year-old to add to his already sharp eye for goal. Combining these two factors could turn Walcott from a dangerous attacker into one of the best in the league.
This could be a risky move however, as Walcott may not be the leader that Arsenal require both on and off the field. Despite that possibility, it is equally likely that Walcott could take that opportunity by the throat and transform into a leading figure for the Gunners.
Only time and the opportunity would tell but giving Walcott the armband could be as exciting as his style of play.
As a strong sign of commitment to Arsenal’s long-term future with Özil firmly in the center of those plans, Wenger could also hand the armband to the 26-year-old German.
Despite Özil having only spent two years at the club, it has become pretty obvious that Wenger’s goal is to build a team around him. That sort of commitment to a player was last seen with Cesc Fabregas and he too, was handed the captain’s armband.
Wenger has always been a fan of attacking based football, and who better to represent that aspect of Arsenal’s game-plan than Özil. Wenger could have an attacker as the captain with his focus centered up top and have a vice captain firmly planted in defence to provide equal leadership at the back.
That may however, not be necessary due to the developments in Özil’s game. Wenger’s utter insistence on having Özil learn to track back more frequently and become more physical has given the German knowledge on how to play a more physical, defensive game.
Stranger things have happened but with Özil’s utter mastery of reading the game in front of him, giving him the armband may just work.