Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday April 25 2008
It will no doubt not have escaped your attention that the subject of the Arsenal captaincy has been a contentious one in recent weeks. Today, William Gallas has publicly proclaimed apathy at the constant stream of negative press he attracts, remarking, with rather Gaelic poise, "They can say what they like. They won`t break me; I`m much stronger than that." I think I`ve stated my position on Gallas here enough times now, I do not really have the inclination to repeat it, nor I am sure do you have the wherewithal to hear it again. Suffice to say I wish people would judge football on the pitch and not in the papers. But with many entertaining a contrary view to mine, i.e. that Gallas is not skipper material, I thought I would indulge this and considering alternative candidates. Who could do the job better than Gallas? Now, I am assuming Matty Flamini is leaving so I will not consider him at length. The guy has shown great character and proved to be a good cajoler and a battery for this team this year, but the captaincy is an entirely different prospect. Flamini works well as a behind the scenes kind of cog, somebody to supplement rather than supply ammunition. Thrusting him into the limelight would create great pressure and focus on a job that usually relies on being conducted surreptitiously, under enemy radar.
Cesc FABREGAS- Would be astride most people`s lists. The young midfielder is undoubtedly the heart beat of our team, our creative component who exhibits steel and style in equal measure. Bouts of petulance have decreased this season, but you can tell that for the unrivalled quality this young man possesses, there beats the heart of a winner. A young captain for a young team, Cesc is the icon of Arsene`s latest incarnation. The responsibility might add yet another string to the Catalonian`s already far ranging bow. However, there is also a sense of there being too much too young. In his still tender years, perhaps we should concentrate on letting him hone his own talents further (it is amazing to think that they can go much further yet) before burdening him with looking out for others too. I remember feeling that at the end of Henry`s tenure we had let him become too important, he was the top scorer, top of the assists chart, corner taker, free kick taker, penalty taker and captain. Making Cesc captain would run the risk of a similar prospect, becoming overly reliant on one cog, making other pivots submissively fall into the background. On the other hand, has a barely disguised hatred of Ashley Cole, which can only speak volumes of his character. Cesc is a lover and a fighter, but I think it`s still a little early yet. One day.
Kolo TOURE- Would win the popularity vote, rarely gets injured, rarely endures bad form (current form accepted), the kind of guy who would run through brick walls for the cause. (I bet he literally would run through a brick wall if you put it in front of him). Toure is a great example as a role model given his exceptional behaviour and his tireless work rate. Toure has recently told Sky Sports News that the club is in his heart and that he wants to stay for the rest of his career. Heard it all before haven`t we? Difference is, you believe Kolo when he says that. Transfer speculation is tiresome and frustrating, but players themselves can curtail it if they wish. For instance, when was the last time you heard Toure linked with another club? I am sure most clubs in Europe would find a place for him. Hell, lazy arse hacks haven`t even seen fit to forge a tenuous link with Barcelona to link up with brother Yaya. (If any tabloid journalists out there are reading, don`t even try it. I`ll know!) However, I still am not convinced that Toure, whilst obviously popular with his team mates and supporters, is a leader of men. Does he have enough distance to speak his mind when it is needed? Last summer, Fabregas revealed he felt the Arsenal dressing room was "too nice" in defeat. This probably prompted the decision to appoint Gallas, never afraid to voice his opinion. In his stead as vice captain, I think Toure is getting there. But I think this is too soon for him. However, did once elbow Alan Shearer, which puts another little tick in the plus column.
Tomas ROSICKY- Captains the Czech Republic, seems to play games in perpetual motion and can be a good inspirational figure. However, ideally your captain should play more than ten times a season. Ongoing affair with Gary Lewin would probably lead to accusations of favouritism and split the squad.
Robin van PERSIE- See above.
Bacary SAGNA- Mr. Consistency himself could be an outside shout. Plays the game in the most commendable spirit, is uber reliable and appears to be very popular with team mates and supporters. As with Gallas, having not been at the club that long could be an advantage as he has a slight distance which would enable him to be more autocratic. His strength in adversity of late has marked him out as a real warrior and a figure of inspiration. However, I feel Sagna is more of a quiet, solid performer than rallier of men.
Philippe SENDEROS- Has leadership qualities in abundance, organises, cajoles team mates and has an intelligent air. A seemingly positive personality, Wenger recently revealed that he nearly made Big Phil Captain when Vieira left before plumping for Henry in 2005. With many contending that the partnership of Toure and Gallas does not work, whereas Phil flourished alongside Gallas recently could see him become a surprise regular. Has made errors this year, but no more than Toure or Gallas, has really become one of the Gooners` legendary scapegoats. However, his partnership with Gallas I feel was more to do with Gallas` umbilical marshalling of Phil and I think, yet again, it`s too early for Big Phil. I also sincerely doubt he will be a regular.
Emmanuel ADEBAYOR- Often a figure of inspiration this year, dragging the team in virtuoso fashion during late winter. Gives 100% in every game with a humble attitude, also never hides from adversity. Upon missing sitters at Old Trafford and Anfield, he put himself straight back in the firing line to score. However, the Henry experiment proved that strikers should never be captains and I think we should allow Ade to man the burden of goalscoring without increasing his load. Plus, head butting more junior squad members is not really becoming of a captain.
Gael CLICHY- See Bacary Sagna. Ultra consistent, brilliant player, but too quiet to be a captain.
GILBERTO Silva- With Flamini eyeing the exit door and Gilberto seeking dual nationality, Mr. Professional himself may be tempted to stay and win his place back. Did a sterling job of the captaincy during Henry`s injury ravaged last season and has the utmost respect of everybody involved with our football club. His behaviour this year has been exemplary in what has been a tough season and having shoddily been informed that he had been usurped as captain via the club website, it would be a rich reward for 32 year old Gilberto. If he could hold the armband for a season or two while Fabregas and Toure hone their leadership skills, we could be onto a satisfactory solution. He has a wealth of experience, is a calming influence and reads the game in a masterly fashion. Also once memorably complained that playing Chelsea gave him severe neck ache! But while it sounds like a nice sentimental fairy story, football is an altogether crueller reality. Flamini has excelled due to his energy levels in the Arsenal midfield; hence his style has been very successful in the youthful pairing between him and Cesc. Fabregas has passed the stage of requiring a mentor cut up his meat for him and when Flamini goes, I think we really need to look for a player of similar ilk. I would love for Gilberto to stick around and let his presence invigorate our younger players as it undoubtedly does. But, as Bob Dylan once remarked, The Times They Are A Changin` and the team has evolved without Gilberto really. The lyric from the same song saliently suggests, "For he who gets hurt will be he who has stalled, there`s a battle outside raging." It`s the sentimental choice, but not necessarily the most pragmatic.
Emmanuel EBOUE- Works his arse off, well loved by fans…..I`ll stop there I think.LD.
Date:Friday April 25 2008
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