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Wanted: A Leader

Wanted: A Leader

There was a moment against Blackburn, just after Song had put into his own net. It repeated itself when Koscielny did the same. On both occasions both players raised their arms, shrugged and looked about to see all their team mates doing the same.

It looked like a care home when lunch time is 15 minutes late. People walking about confused, no idea what`s happening to them or what they`ve done to deserve it. In a care home somebody would walk in and tell them 'your lunch is late;` a leader. During the Blackburn game the only thing that stirred Arsenal`s defenders out of their malaise was the ball going back to the centre circle. There was no leader.

Robin Van Persie is an excellent player and no doubt a good captain. He represents the club with integrity at all club functions, but a leader is different, and a leader he is not. When Gervinho decided, instead of passing to him in an acre of space, that he would try to waltz around 7 defenders in a square cm, Van Persie just stared at him wide eyed, confused.

Van Persie does his own thing. That usually involves something special that results in a goal, and that`s the way it`s supposed to be. He doesn`t trouble himself with sorting out defenders and nor should he. That`s a leader`s job.

These leaders make a difference. But more than that, a leader can shape a team around his image. When Patrick Viera was leader the team was a mixture of Gallic flair and African strength. Artists on the ball, warriors in the tackle.

All the great teams need a leader, and those leaders represent what makes the club tick; the way the team plays. Barcelona have Puyol as captain, but their leader is Xavi. He dictates the club. Tika-taka, mouthy and constantly pushing at the boundaries of fair play. Messi, like Van Persie is great, but no leader; he operates in his own sphere.

Gary Neville was a leader for United. Always sending the same message as the manager; 'nobody likes us, we don`t care.` He played the chip on the shoulder Northern stereotype like an Oscar winner. No matter if it was hammed up, it infiltrated the rest of the team. United always play as though they`re just waiting to say 'we told you so.`

Jagielka is Everton`s leader. It`s no coincidence that Lescott took so long to get his game back together after leaving Jagielka`s side. Since Steven Gerrard`s injury problems started Liverpool have slipped from second in the Premiership, to out of Europe and spending £35m on Andy Carroll in a desperate attempt to show they`re still a force to be reckoned with.
A leader gives a team a 'revert to type` a safe option.

If Chelsea struggle one glance towards John Terry and they know to kill the game. To go back to grinding teams down.

Arsenal have lacked a leader for too long, and yet in their ranks they have a young player who could define the club in his image; continental flair with a very English spirit. A man who is a fan as well as a player. Who only wants for one thing; for Arsenal to pick up trophies. Jack Wilshere might be young, but then so was Tony Adams when he took the captaincy, and that never stopped him screaming in the faces of established internationals.

He might be injured, but giving Wilshere the captaincy would send a clear message; take responsibility for your own performance. Until this team has a leader performances like the Blackburn game could well be the norm.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Northern Gooner
Date:Monday September 19 2011
Time: 3:49PM


You could have had Jenas if you had asked
19/09/2011 16:06:00
Giving Wilshere the captaincy would be a disaster. He's not a leader yet either. By making him captain, you put the team's lack of leadership all on him. Just because it worked for Adams, doesn't mean it would work for Wilshere. To be in that position, Adams had to demonstrate real leadership. Saying that we should give Wilshere the captaincy at 19 because it worked for Adams at 21 is like saying let's stick Zak Ansah in at centre half at 16 because Fabregas excelled when he was 17. The actual armband doesn't matter a jot. If you haven't got leadership, you haven't got it. Similarly, if you've got it, you do it regardless of whether you have an armband. Handing over a piece of cloth to someone else doesn't really make any odds. Did Adams stop being a leader for England when Shearer was wearing the armband? Did Seaman, Dixon, Bould stop being leaders for Arsenal? Did Bergkamp, Gilberto, Campbell and Lehmann stop because Vieira was wearing the armband? If that piece of cloth is so vital, then how do we explain that seven of our first team squad wear it for their countries, yet lack leadership in Arsenal shirts? In fact, why not just tape a piece of cloth to all of their arms? Then they'll all magically become leaders.
Little Dutch
19/09/2011 16:22:00
I can't believe you are thinking the greatest need of arsenal is a player-leader. Jeez!!! What you need is a change of manager, period!!! the truth has got to be said. the reason people still watch arsenal games is mainly cos of V. Persie who is the most experienced and one of the finest modern footballers. please go for manage/coach change. but i know fans here will support Wenger even when the club is relegated. can't understand that
19/09/2011 16:24:00
I have to disagree. I think Wilshere has got leadership credentials. Early for him maybe, but I think the main point of the article is not Wilshere, more that the crucial factor of leadership has been overlooked when building this team
19/09/2011 16:30:00
Its a leader off the pitch we need now. One that will get the players caring again and would not tolerate indifference like this. It is IMO not a lack of leaders on the pitch that plagues us but culture that tolerates indifference, ill dicipline and champions excuses.
19/09/2011 16:31:00
From a neutral's point of view, a leader on the pitch is essential. A coach can only take them up to the touchline - then they're on their own. Have to agree with deaduncleted - the writer's point is not about Whilshere, more than a club needs characters who care and want to take responsibility. In that case he's bang on the money, there's only Wilshere I can see, or Vermalen who seems to say 'we need to pick it up'
19/09/2011 16:35:00
Adams skills as a leader were honed leading the way to the bar at the for the Tuesday drinking club! The game has changed a great deal since then with players generally far more transient in the modern game. We've had some bizarre ideas as to how to arrest our current struggles but expecting Wilshere to change anything simply by yelling at Arshavin, RvP, Sagna is a pretty pointless one. As has already been pointed out if Wilshere is a leader then it won't matter one jot whether he wears an armband or not - if he isn't then lumbering him with even more expectation isn't going to help anyone.
19/09/2011 16:55:00
Hate to be a pedant but Wilshere is a West Ham fan, also i'm glad it's been pointed out that this wouldn't be a good idea. Adams was a completely different kettle of worms. Although I do disagree completely re the cloth not meaning anything, it inspires some people, Beckham was a different player for England when he was given it. Wilshere one day maybe, but not now. Wenger hasn't show much, if any, respect for the armband since he's been here anyway, mainly been used as a bargaining tool to keep a start player at the club for one more season.
19/09/2011 17:08:00
Pretty much in every country except this one, the captaincy is purely decorative. Ferguson changed captains 3 times in 2 seasons- passing it between Neville, Ferdinand and then to Vidic. It didn't really make much odds to them. They had players like VDS, Giggs, Scholes etc around. Who wore the armband was, literally, immaterial.
Little Dutch
19/09/2011 17:55:00
I think you've all missed the point of this - that the team is missing leaders. I'm sure you all have to agree on that?
19/09/2011 18:21:00
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