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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.

The Journalist

Writer: Northern Gooner Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday September 19 2011

Time: 3:49PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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You could have had Jenas if you had asked
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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'
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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.
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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.
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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
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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?
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19/09/2011 18:21:00

Another good point made was that leaders often captain best from the back where they see things happening in front of them. Just how the hell is Van Persie supposed to make sense of the calamity happening behind him when he's halfway up the pitch? It cant be a coincidence that some of the strongest teams around have their leaders in defence and midfield. When ive played football nothing gives you more confidence than a strong voice at the back. Is anyone telling Song to cut out the crap and pass the ball? Or Arshavin to move his lazy butt? Or Santos to get in line? Is anyone leading by example? Many may think the importance of leadership is overrated but countless wars have been lost because of the absence of it, and i certainly dont think its something you can hand round.
Wyn Mills
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19/09/2011 19:10:00

No, we have several international captains, an abundance of leadership qualities. I have no ******** idea what the problem is.
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19/09/2011 19:10:00

Thats pretty surprising considering the following facts Per - captan of Blackburn Arteta - has captained Everton Ramsey - captain of Wales ------ Why did no one step up? I have no ******** clue.
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19/09/2011 19:19:00

Werder* sorry
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19/09/2011 19:20:00

Nobody's missed the point Gary, just you. Nobody underestimates the value of leadership, I just contest the silly idea that an armband automatically imbues you with it, or a lack of one takes it away from you.
Little Dutch
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19/09/2011 19:40:00

No, he's bang on the money - nowhere in this article does it say an armband leads to leadership. In fact the comment about Xavi says quite the opposite. Same the one about Neville. "A leader is different (from a captain)" I think you need to read the piece as a whole, not just get hung up on the bottom 2 paragraphs.
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19/09/2011 21:52:00

Exactly. That line "a leader is different" backs me, the writer and deaduncleted up. I think you've just seen 'Jack Wilshere for captain' and got caught up in that. Arsenal need more leadership on the pitch, maybe that comes in the form of Wenger needing to be stronger with the players? Who knows. Sajit - good point about there being so many captains at the club. Good question, why did nobody step up?
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19/09/2011 21:56:00

Are those players - Merta, Arteta, Ramsey. Whilst captains, are any of them leaders? None of them seem to have stepped up.
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19/09/2011 21:57:00

"Leader". No, you need a miracle...
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19/09/2011 23:14:00

"Leader". No, you need a miracle...
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19/09/2011 23:15:00

deaduncleted, so why bother heaping the pressure of captaincy on Wilshere then? If he is a leader, let him lead. Why does giving him an armband make the blindest bit of difference? It could only possibly have negative connotations. If Arsenal lack leaders- and I think they do- what difference does it make passing round a piece of cloth between the same group of players that lack it?
Little Dutch
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19/09/2011 23:26:00

The captains armband has been devalued at Arsenal to the point where Chamakh comes on the other day for RVP and is forced to put it on because no-one else wants it.
Wyn Mills
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20/09/2011 00:18:00

Absolutely agree with LD. We have a collection of captains from all over the football world. It is a classic problem that everyone just believe the guy next to him will get the job done. I also believe that the players are fed up with the facts that the club management treating them like a hot pick stock or commodities, always try to buy low sell high. Starting from Henry the King. you can afford one BIG exit in every 2-3 years but you just cannot afford what the team has done to this long list of performing players during the last few years.
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20/09/2011 04:38:00

I also think leadership is something that has to be earned amongst ones peers. Its arguable whether Wilshire, for all his skill and determination, commands enough respect yet to lead the team. It will probably come (and a lot sooner than some of us think) but at the moment he's a comparative baby compared to the likes of RVP, TV and Song. Heaping the added pressure of captaincy on him at this particular moment wouldn't be a great idea IMHO.
Wyn Mills
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20/09/2011 08:43:00

The captaincy is only devalued in the misty eyes of those that were brought up on the tales of Moore and Robson. People in most other countries are baffled by this mystical importance we give it. The reason we have so many international captains is not because we have lots of leaders- it's just that some players are the most capped/ best players in their squads. Benayoun, Ramsey, Arshavin. That's what most countries do with the armband. Leadersip is important, the captaincy is purely ceremonial in about 95% of the football world.
Little Dutch
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20/09/2011 09:18:00

As many have said, there are plenty of leaders out there; lots of players who have captained/currently captain their country - also a good indicator of experience. It's a bit dull hearing so many people repeat so many SkySports cliches (and some childish nonsense) every day... 'no leaders, Arshavin is lazy, the players don't care, I know better than Wenger'. Get a sense of perspective. One of the best clubs in Europe has had a bad start to the season, and the greatest manager in its history will be working as hard as he can to fix it.

No matter how much you may are about the club's results, the players and manager care more. Always will. They have their pride, egos and careers at stake.
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20/09/2011 09:31:00

I don't think it matters what other countries do and don't think of the captains armband, it's all about pyschology. Some players will, and do, perform better as a captain, they feel it's their duty. Just because someone here thinks it's just a piece of cloth goes no way in to proving that it wouldn't improve some players. Just as one player may respond to the hair dryer treatment, others are more responsive to the arm around the shoulder. Picking and choosing how best to mentally prepare your team is exactly what the manager needs to be doing .... for the last 10 months all I've seen is an old man sitting on a chair throwing things around.
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20/09/2011 09:44:00

The thing is, 99% of our players come from those countries that don't care about it and never have. It's pure fairy story stuff. If you're a leader, you lead. Simple as that. It's second nature to you. I'll give you an example. Thomas Vermaelen isn't Arsenal's captain. Has he been a leader when he's played this season? Damn right he has been. Because it comes naturally to him to do that, it's in his character. I don't see an air of "well, I'm not skipper, not my problem" from him. Not one iota. In fact, the only first team player that comes from a country that places this mythical power to it is Wilshere, so he's a lot more likely to feel the pressure and much more likely to be more intensely scrutinised with it. Tossing the armband around hasn't helped us and I fail to see how it will now. Since our last trophy, we've had 5 different, full time captains. But if your captain doesn't have enough able liuetenants, he can't stop his ship going down. Putting that on Wilshere would be calamitous. Even Fabregas has had to bear criticism for his captaincy, which is remarkable when you look at how he actually played the game. Wilshere would be absolutely crucified by the English press because he'd be made responsible for an entire team that lacks leaders.
Little Dutch
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20/09/2011 10:35:00

my mind goes back to the early 70s when liverpool had just been beaten in the league at anfield, and there manager the late great bill shankley was being interviewed and he said and i quote, at 3pm i put a team of 11 players out, all top class international footballers who are as close as i and the coaching staff can get them to be at the top of there game coupled with that should be the desire to succeed for liverpool . if at 3.05 those 11 players decide that they have no desire to play to there ability and no interest in winning, then there is nothing i or anyone else can do about it how true is that to our current crop of superstars until this team get it into their heads that it takes pride and commitment to succeed, then were in for a long hard dissapointing season i watched 2 local teams in aderby match on sunday in a little village called porthleven on the lizard penninsula and either of those local teams could have put up a more spirited attempt to win than our lot we dont just need a leader, we need an effing miracle
cornish gooner
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20/09/2011 11:11:00

What a shame that wonderful human being Joey Barton didn't sign after he admitted having talks with your saintly manager, who has, ironically, always eschewed thuggery. He's a big leader, or, as I prefer, bleeder for short, and I'd have love to have seen the reaction to such a recidivist in your ranks. Volte face perhaps, or maybe turn the other cheek? With Barton, I'd expect the latter.
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21/09/2011 21:58:00

God you really do love the sound of your own voice Johnny, such a pompous vainglorious windbag, is it just all part of your 'lord' kick or are you this feckin tedious for real?
Report Abuse
22/09/2011 01:03:00

Oh dear niko, after years on Upper Street; feeling a bit Holloway Road? I think you should look a bit nearer to home for vainglorious windbags. I'm always up for a bit of pomposity in the mix when having a dig. I was merely pointing to the fact that your desperate manager was willing to countenance the likes of Joey Barton, which would appear to fly in the face of his tenets regarding the way the game is played. Would you have been happy to have him wearing the shirt?
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22/09/2011 10:41:00

Barton supposedly had talks with a few clubs, Spuds included apparently. Of course Wenger's name would be the only one worth Barton dropping though. No bid was made so not really much to talk about - even for a pompous old windbag.
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22/09/2011 13:26:00

The essential difference is no other club has taken such a high-falutin' attitude as M. Hulot, so he's obviously lowered his sights, and his morals. Prof. Vinegar defending the scally would have been priceless, and would have superceded his eyebrow raising comments about your current squad being stronger than last year.
Report Abuse
22/09/2011 16:56:00

Would have, would have, if only, could have been, rhubarb rhubarb harrumph. Do you perpetual poultry botherers ever deal in factual reality?
Report Abuse
22/09/2011 18:38:00

'factual reality?' .......... check.
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23/09/2011 16:07:00

I know for most people 'factual reality' is oxymoronic, but a sp*rs' fans' grossly distorted reality can in no way be classed as factual hence the necessity for both words.
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23/09/2011 17:52:00

Good try.
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25/09/2011 20:54:00


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