It has been said many times that Arsène finds the position of Captain in a football side a rather archaic, unnecessary role in the modern game. Arsène believes that every player should be a leader, driving the team on and that no-one should look to one man for inspiration. His point is clear to understand, when your game is based on collective creativity, speed of thought and execution and a smattering of individual flair it is foolish to rely on one man to inspire 10 other men.
Yet the effect at Arsenal has been clear to see, dropping Club Captain Thomas Vermaelen and passing the armband to the experienced Mikel Arteta and there seems to have been a change in dynamic. Arteta is a talker, he plays the simple stuff first and he is someone that the likes of Ramsey and Wilshire look up to. He is a role model, exactly what you want as your Captain and he has a great understanding of the game, on and off the pitch.
Our resurgence towards the end of the season is not wholly down to Arteta, there have been some exceptional performances from several players – Rambo, Koscielny, the BFG, Rosicky, Gibbs and of course the mercurial Santi Cazorla but it is a testament to the weight that he puts on Arteta that he started him on Sunday even when he wasn’t fit. Arteta is the football equivalent of the little book of calm and we have missed that cool assurance in the centre of the park. Few could argue that his position as Vice Captain isn’t merited, in fact, I would be confident that the majority would accept him taking over as Captain until Jack is ready and the BFG becoming Vice Captain.
So where does this leave Vermaelen, Club Captain and Central Defender. I think if we took a poll (and I just might put one up today) on who should become Captain for next season and of course what should we do with Vermaelen. We have seen him degenerate as a player and I wonder whether he will get that confidence back at Arsenal. The important thing to remember is that he is a top-class defender and we need more than the BFG and Koscielny to compete. We need strength in depth so to get shot of Vermaelen would mean that we would need to replace him, but will he be happy with a squad role and the chance to win his place back in pre-season?
I know Vermaelen is a good player, I think the Captaincy distracts him on the pitch and I think taking it off of him would release him to do what he does best, which is anticipatory, strong defending. I don’t think he is a suitable partner for Koscielny, but I can certainly see him playing off of the BFG if he starts communicating better (again the removal of the Captaincy should help). Could a change of position benefit Vermaelen? If we moved him into the defensive midfield role currently occupied by Arteta could he do the same job and shield the defence whilst providing the springboard for us to base our attacks on? What do you think?
I think it is always a terrible idea to let good players go if you can do something about it. We are getting rid of enough dead wood this summer, as delighted as we are that they are going it is an awful amount of upheaval in the playing staff – even though they are not first teamer’s they are on the training ground every day. The likes of Squillaci, Arshavin, Chamakh will have friends in the Arsenal squad and we need to bolster the existing playing staff with excellent players and we could do a lot worse than ensuring Vermaelen is still there after the summer transfer window. He is a good player and still has plenty to offer if he is committed to Arsenal. If the picture above is anything to go by then he looks pretty committed to me.