Captaincy: Blind Leading The Blind

“Arsenal players hold blind vote…” run the headlines or some variation on the theme. The outcome is that the blind are leading the blind.

Five captains? It raises questions about the squad, the same one we’ve been asking for years: where are the leaders?

Unai Emery wants the squad to choose the captains and asked them to cross the ballot papers during the summer. It’s a close-run thing; the recounts are taking a lifetime.

Life was much simpler when the manager walked into the changing room, tossed the armband to one player and that was the job done. Usually, that player stood out; someone the squad naturally followed. Not necessarily most popular but one they believed in.

This is taking it one step further; democracy in action. It also points to there not being one standout character.

Or is it simply the case that Emery’s choice is massively unpopular and he knows it? There’s no doubt Granit Xhaka is the Spaniard’s choice but even he isn’t deaf to the criticism of the Swiss. If the squad puts the armband on the midfielder, it shields Emery: “it’s not my choice – the players want him”.

Is that too political for the coach? Should he even care whether a player is popular? Maybe that post-match interview was a whine too far and actually stymied the decision to appoint Xhaka captain?

Do we even care?

I ask that facetiously and seriously all at once. For more than a decade, the captaincy has been a long-hand transfer request. Everyone who wore it, left but not always of their own accord.

It’s pointed out that the captain is usually part of a group in continental football. Yet within that, there is a pecking order: captain, vice-captain, 3rd captain, etc. The captain is the captain.

Following the Leader

Plenty of players on the surface, fit the bill. Aubameyang has some qualities needed; scorer, go-to guy, etc. Leadership comes in many forms and in essence, giving Nicolas Pepe the opportunity to break his duck with a penalty against Villa captures the spirit we want.

Is he keeping the seat warm for Hector Bellerin? Like Rob Holding, he’s benefited from a spell on the touchlines. Criticism of his fashion sense died out whilst he recovered. His reputation on the pitch grew as our failings were exposed.

Don’t get me wrong; Hector is a good right-back, potentially an excellent one. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a defensive midfielder standing in; doing the best he can in a role he’s made abundantly clear he doesn’t like.

Holding was performing well and is now returning to a role that, despite being their day jobs, neither Luiz or Sokratis seems to particularly like.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

There’s some similarity between Xhaka and Bellerin; their nadir came after defeat to Watford. The abuse Xhaka gets now is the same Bellerin received then. It wasn’t right then and the same applies now. Criticism isn’t an issue but there’s a line all too frequently stepped over.

At the end of all this, we see the same players wearing the armband. Granit Xhaka wore it again last weekend, he’ll wear it at Old Trafford on Monday. Emery likes him, trusts him and that’s the end of the subject.

Elsewhere, the squad is relatively healthy. Dino Mavropanos is back in training, to the same extent Tierney and Bellerin are. Not ready for action but training. The only absentees are Lacazette and Emile Smith Rowe. They are out until after the international break if we’re lucky in the former’s case.

’til Tomorrow.

29 thoughts on “Captaincy: Blind Leading The Blind

  1. Allan Teale says:

    I am not sure what the issue is with the club, I am not a manager, but watching the game against Forrest and Ozils deft passes made the younger players look great what could he do for our team given the chance. It is obvious apart fro Torreira he should start in front of the other midfielders. You don’t have to be a great manager to realise that he has that magic touch. pleas play Mezut so our strikers have a chance to score.

  2. Reloaded says:

    You slackers! Well I thought it was a nice little write up, YW.

  3. Spike says:

    I get your point, but I think Bellerin and Chaka are very different. I think Bellerin has been over played and has been the number one RB for ages, so perhaps he was a bit jaded and also a tad complacent about his place. Add to that the lack of defensive cover in midfield (shock horror!)…

    Whereas that cannot be said of Xhaka, he wouldn’t be third choice DM in my view.

    I think one of Tierney or Holding will play from the start Monday night. I hope its Rob.

    I have liked him from the off, he can partner ant of our current CBs and will invariably have a calming influence. The guy is a natural leader as well. So fingers crossed he stays fit, keeps Luiz (unlikely) or Sokratis (very likely) out of the team and gets the arm band.

    The whole five captains thing is more proof of how unsure Emery is about everything! His constant ti keeping and indecision is becoming his hallmark. I hope he finds his feet (and his balls) sooner rather than later.

  4. Spike says:

    Emery has made Xhaka his permanent team captain… its official, Dick is a stubborn, myopic deluded twat…

    Tits just like Wengers last couple of seasons all over again (sorry Arsene, you are a legend and deserve huge respect but you did stick around a tad too long!)!!

  5. Bufallo says:

    If it all unfolds for Emery it will be entirely self inflicted. What a choice as captain, the kid better massively up his performances or he will be lynched from the stands. Why not pick Auba, Laca, Bellerin, Holding not the one player clearly unpopular with fans. Idiot.

  6. Two Owls says:

    Holding is English and a young stand-out player. The fans will love him and the players will not gripe. It would put the emphasis where it is needed in the team-Defence!

  7. Woolwich Freddie says:

    For me Laca was the only choice. I. His absence, Guendouzi has been doing the job without being asked and should be made vice. Auba is first name on the team sheet and has the right spirit.
    All this does is guarantee Xhaka a starting place in the big games. Our big opponents will be rubbing their hands in glee at the hole this will leave in our center midfield with regularity.
    Another big mark against Emery for me.

  8. Uwot? says:

    Grant hacker is gonna get Dick the sacker!as pointed out this is self inflicted.what a muppet Emery is.losing faith by the minute.

  9. Las says:

    Thanks, YW. Excellent post. And very depressing. What is pretty obvious now, Emery does not know his players. Not as footballers nor as personalities. Of course, I want(ed) him, Arsenal succeeds though I had reservations about him. Sadly he is not learning. I wish I was mistaken but on Monday I bet anyone if Xhaka leads the line that is simply asking for trouble. I don’t want Arsenal in trouble. Why Emery is so stubborn, he might not watch the same game as I do.
    For the captaincy, I fully agree with Woolwich Freddie, Laca is our man.
    (Holy mother, no Xhaka please)

  10. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Hats off to Dick! He certainly now’s how to get a P45.

  11. Woolwich Freddie says:

    At the risk of being political, it occurs to me that maybe Emery, as a newcomer to Britain, was surprised by the sight of Boris for PM and assumed we just liked having clumsy incompetents in charge. This may be being harsh on Granit, however. If only his dirty tackles were as cynical as Johnson’s.

  12. Crispen says:

    It’s only a good idea if at the End of this season we can get rid of both captain and coach

  13. Paulie Walnuts says:


    Unai has shot himself in the bollocks with this one. I don’t see Xhaka improving. He’s slow , ponderous, impulsive & in many games a liability.

    My choice would have been Lacazette.

  14. Peter Dsouza says:

    YW, you wrote… ‘Whatever those photos are, they must be dynamite’… Not just dynamite, they must be – ‘priest-gets-defrocked-dynamite’

  15. Spike says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    Its bizarre baffling and illogical. He would be 4th choice DM behind Torreira, Chambers and AMN and about 10th choice central midfielder overall.

    I have no confidence of winning on monday now.

    I am pinning all my Hope’s on the team all chipping in to pay for some dodgy ruffian to knobble the new el capitano!!

    Captain? (NOT) My Captain!

  16. Reloaded says:

    It’s oft been noted that our captain band is a for sale sign. Let’s keep that tradition going for another year! Sure seems a tall order to coach up what Xhaka lacks. Maybe the passing of the armband will be more fluid and effective than our play of late?

    Next up…Socrates for goal-kick captain!! 🤔

  17. Spike says:


    I think individually our CBs are better than we’ve seen recently. However the pairings have been off coupled with a lack of defensive cover further up the pitch.

    Luiz and Sokratis is a case in point. Both are experienced a decent defenders, but together? They are an accident waiting to happen.

    Holding and anyone would do for me right now as our 1st choice pairing.

    Chambers is surely going up in the head coaches estimations and the pecking order as well.

    For all his initial talk of promoting from within and giving youth a chance etc, it is a worrying sign how steadfastly Emery sticks with the older, more established players, regardless of their bad form and the good form of others.

  18. Ferkov says:

    a fly on the wall I thought he heard,” schaka, you really sucking right now, and your not in Monday, but there are some possibilities,and here have this captains thingy . We have all many possibilities. .” Bloke down the pub told me.

  19. Ferkov says:

    In other news…..
    25 years ago tonite, the first episode of the fast show was televised

  20. Blue Yonder says:

    Never heard anything so ridiculous, if true. Captaincy is not a popularity contest and leaving it up to the players is just ducking the issue. It’s fine to be well-liked but you have to lead by example and that lets Xhaka out for a start.
    Aubameyang and Lacazette have demonstrated that they have the fire and the performance to be the captain. Not suggesting they are the only ones.

    Emery is showing he’s not geared to manage in the EPL if this is his MO.

  21. jonnygunner says:

    Woolwich Freddie:
    At the risk of being political, it occurs to me that maybe Emery, as a newcomer to Britain, was surprised by the sight of Boris for PM and assumed we just liked having clumsy incompetents in charge. This may be being harsh on Granit, however. If only his dirty tackles were as cynical as Johnson’s.

    You are being political…

  22. jonnygunner says:

    jonnygunner: You are being political…

    Maybe the newcomers could ingratiate their chosen land instead of challenging the very place they choose as home….the irony

  23. Blue Yonder says:

    Apparently, it is official and Xhaka is the team captain. Emery says Xhaka is respected in the dressing room and he wants that to extend outside. No problem, all he has to do is up his game. And by a large margin.
    That might be a bridge too far.
    Emery must know he’s tying his Arsenal future to decisions like this. It also means Xhaka will continue to start, leaving those more capable to sit. Wonderful.

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