LEADERSHIP ARSENAL STYLE: What Arsenal’s captains are required to have,


After suffering through three games watching poor England stumble and scramble in the WC, it occurred to me that England clearly lacked leadership and passion from far too many players. I believe the youngsters tried their best but when Gerard, Lampard or Rooney were called on to perform, they generally failed miserably and looked too indifferent to be bothered.

The worst game of the tournament, imho, was between Italy and England! I have seen under 5 games that were more entertaining and had loads more heart. Both teams sleep-walked through the fixture and if it weren’t for Pirlo’s ceaseless mastery of the midfield…it would have caused most spectators terminal unconsciousness well before half-time.

So what is my point about Arsenal’s style of leadership being so special?

Here is my take on what Arsenal’s captains are required to have, regardless of their age or experience and why England have rarely enjoyed that since Bobby Moore was captain:

1) The captain’s physical presence is far less important than his example to other players on and off the pitch. Per is so tall that he is also very visible but someone of Sanchez’s stature would do well also. Vermaelen,Viera, Cesc and others were great examples of class on and off the field.

2) The laws of the game already prohibit ANY player from approaching the referee or assistants, WITHOUT the permission of the referee. He or she may allow the captain to politely request an explanation for a call but NOT confront, contest dissent or abuse the referee or assistants in ANY way. That also applies to the substitutes and management. Therefore the captain has to know the laws very well and know HOW to address himself to the referee.

3) The captain should be a classic Arsenal leader:  dignified, passionate, non-violent, respectful of all players,officials and management, an example to the fans in good or bad times,  law-abiding, dignified in victory and defeat and a hero at all times. We have countless candidates on the first team who meet or exceed these requirements.

4) It is not necessarily essential or ideal for him to be a capped international or even a first team regular. It is, of course better that he be on the field than off it but since the armband is given to the assistant when the captain is substituted,it isn’t an issue.

5) I feel the assistant captain has to be of equal stature to the captain because he can be called upon at any time to lead. As well he can add to the authority of the on-field captain by supporting him and encouraging his teammates to join in.

6) The captain, being the representative of the manager on the pitch, should be able to adjust the team tactically in order to respond to differing situations. He can tell an attacking midfielder to play more defensively and vice-versa. He can calm an over-heated player and prevent him from doing something foolish. He can support the defense or the attack even if it means leaving his comfort zone occasionally.

7) I believe a captain should be able to see the entire field of play if possible, so having a captain in the back four makes a lot of sense. However someone like Arteta or Ramsey also have great total field vision and fufill this requirement very well.

England surely could have benefited from a captain with courage and conviction like Tony Adams or Frank McLintock ….instead they got Roy and his band of merry misfits…..none of whom EVER showed the slightest interest in leadership or even commitment.

What a shame the young players like Jack and Sterling had to be humiliated by such an experience. The lesson they learnt was NOT to take England seriously. I refereed a friendly game between the WC winners England (1966) and a local Rolls Royce team before the Montreal world’s Fair in 1967. Bobby Moore ran the show during this game and while Sir Alf was on the sidelines, he left the man management to Moore. What a leader and organizer he was.

At AFC, players take the team and manager very seriously but also occasionally with a pinch of salt. They seem to have fun, enjoy each other’s company and apparently are very supportive of each other in the dressing room and as we have seen on the field.

I doubt if we’ll see the likes of Moore in British Football anytime soon BUT there are great leaders available in British Football and hopefully one will emerge to lead the national team someday. What differentiates AFC from many other clubs is that our leadership is quiet, under-stated but completely in alignment with our football values. From the board and owner, on down to Wenger, the players and the administration…..they all seem to share a common value-system and approach to the Game and its stakeholders…..that is what AFC  that others don’t always provide.

The largest collection of facts and opinions on Arsenal’s history ever put together: The AISA Arsenal History Society web site.


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18 Replies to “LEADERSHIP ARSENAL STYLE: What Arsenal’s captains are required to have,”

  1. England never had a decent captain after Eriksson discarded Adams in favour of glamour boy Beckham. It’s no coincidence that Adams announced his retirement from international football soon after.

  2. When u said “dignified in victory and defeat” u remind me of a certain bloke who sat down moping after that draw against birmigham (gallas) am looking at u

  3. Generally speaking, I think there is far too much fuss made about the role & almost mystical powers of the team “Captain” in English football.

    Collective on field leadership is what’s required in the 21st century, as far as I am concerned.

  4. England Italy was a poor game, but thought Costa Rica was worse. in fairness the conditions probably did not help against Italy, and there were a few promising cameos – eg Sterling. The game had an issue, our…lets face it, slightly uninspiring manager made his team terrified of a Pirlo for the second time running, good player , but he is 35!
    As for the England captain, there has been a big elephant in the room, Roys captain was instrumental in getting him removed from Liverpool. Someone tell me how that is supposed to work? If Roy stays, SG should resign as captain, he clearly does not rate his manager….and cannot say I blame him as things stand. As for Arsenal, luckily, we have 3 captains, and one for the future, as long as he stays fit, improves, and he lays off the cigs…or whatever he was alledgedly smoking!

  5. Don,
    Your claim that the old guard in the England team in Brazil “failed miserably and looked too indifferent to be bothered”.
    As a follower of football, I’m sure you were not surprised to note this attitude because it has been prevalent for some years now.
    England were last in real contention in world football, in 1966 when, with the aid of home advantage, the World Cup was won.
    Never before or since have we ever come close to winning the competition.
    As in many sports, the inaugurating nation is often overtaken by those countries taking up the sport and this is what has happened in football.
    Whether we will ever regain a degree of domination, I very much doubt.
    In the sport of professional boxing, it is said that “a hungry fighter is a winner”. With the phenomenal improvement in the living standards of today’s footballers, they will never go hungry again.
    On the subject of Arsenal captain, it would appear sensible for him to be drawn from the back division, where the whole of the play would usually be before him. A defensive midfielder could also do the job.
    Over the years, Arsenal, IMO, made several mistake in appointing forwards to the post, probably as a form of encouragement to remain at the Club. Neither Henry or Van Persie were good captains. Like Fabregas, all three led solely by personal example on the field. While this is highly praiseworthy, it is not the main duty of the captain. His job is to be aware of the team’s tactics, marshal the players when in defensive mode, issue orders and praise when needed and generally run the show on the field.
    That is why Arsenal captains should always be drawn from the midfield or back four.

  6. Nicky lost the the world cup semi- final on penalties during the 1990 world cup that’s pretty close.

  7. It used to be a complaint made by the media and their followers in the brain dead AAA that Arsenal did not have any leaders on the field. I don’t think that claim had any validity, however the present team certainly has, in addition to the captain, a number of an field leaders – all to the good.

    As for England, the old guard seemed to form a clique which attempted to minimize the involvement of Arsenal players in each game. Such behaviour cannot be good for team performance or morale. Some of the old guard have gone, the sooner the rest go the better.

  8. Don the ‘owner’ should read ‘shareholders’.

    Mandy – I do not see Jack as Arsenal captain. He does not have the character required (cigarettes not an issue). He does not realise the importance of teammates and keeps the ball to attract injury. He should learn from Ozil who is very quick to release the ball rather than allow an opponent to tackle him. The tackles he gets are usually late after the ball has gone.

    Most of Arsenal’s English born players have lost sight of their social responsibility and allowed their talent and success to take over their thinking. Very few have had humility to drive them through a full career. They are fortunate to be coached by one of lifes great role models, Wenger. Yet they lose their inhibitions in public without thought of the impact it has on young fans.

    Arsenal will find a great English born captain, but I cannot see one in this squad.

  9. Is it necessary for ARSENAL to have an Englishman as captain??…. I think not.

  10. @menace
    ‘The tackles he gets are usually late after the ball has gone.’
    Yes they are usually late but also usually from behind which makes it rather difficult to anticipate contact unless he fits wing mirrors. A lot of the fouls against him are ankle taps from behind rather than tackles after he has beaten someone and is getting away from them, again almost impossible for him to avoid.

  11. Quite understandably, players tend to perform better for the clubs who pay their wages. The support they receive at their home ground is uplifting and less critical. And unlike the past, the remuneration they receive from the FA
    for playing in the national side is now peanuts compared to their club wages.
    Somehow the incentive to do well at international level just doesn’t seem to exist now. Meaningless friendlies in the middle of our season do not help. And those supporters who loyally attend the games appear more easily dissatisfied with a poor performance and there can be little doubt that tribal fervour surrounding club encounters is far different to the nervous atmosphere at most international meetings.
    I can see the time coming when it will be difficult for the FA to stir up interest in the future of the national side, unless by some means, a marked improvement in success is achieved. At present though, I cannot envisage such a thing happening.

  12. Players not wanting to play for their country has occasionally happened in the distant past so it is not new.

    It has become part of football life in recent years.

    The idea was promoted by a former controller of football based at manure who would tell a player ‘if you want to paly for manure then don’t play for your country. I pay your wages. So they chose manure.

    Then as you point out some clubs pay more than the national team.

    Also when a player is ‘dropped’ its happened that the palyer decides to drop his country.

    To day we have ‘player power’ or in manure’s case ‘manager power’.

    At the moment what English player would see playing for England as ambition!

    Playing in a losing side and having to face the punditry we have today.

    The times are not a changing they have changed.

  13. Menace, I think Jack can be captaincy material…not yet, but in the future. He first has to develop his game and fitness. But he is tough, talented, tenacious, works and runs hard,a good communicator on the pitch. He seems to have regressed a bit over the last couple of years, but probably because he has not had a spell fully fit. I believe he could easily emulate Ramsey next season, but we shall see. I dont personally have an issue wth him smoking, his fitness problems are down to the regular kicking and lack of ref protection he gets, certainly not a lack of lung power but the club, sponsors and manager might well have an issue, and lets face it, it just does not look good on a young athlete. If he smokes, and that certainly would not make him unique amongst his peers… he should give it up

  14. Mandy
    You’ve just mentioned the next Arsenal captain: Aaron Ramsey. Dedicated all round athlete, loves the club and is loved by the supporters in return. has the perfect box to box game from where he can read the match and has captained his nation. A real nice young man, with no off field issues, can give an interview using two & three syllable words, and even though i say it myself is rather good looking.

  15. If that happens OG, then it could not happen to a finer player, or from what we read, a finer human being. That really would be incredible after all he has been through, a true role model…perhaps a role model for Jack at the moment, but I am convinced Jack will soon shine the way Rambo is doing these days.

  16. A captain has several duties: lead on the field and lead off of it and act as a bridge with the manager. This may involve a great deal of talking but it must involve a great deal of communication. Arsenal does not need an English captain. I think people are confusing English with ‘dedicated to Arsenal’. The people of N5 would obviously find it initially easier to relate to an English player but it doesn’t take long for them to learn the character of the players. Which interestingly leads me to agree with idea that a captain should normally be a defensive player. Yes, so they can see what is happening in front of them but more because I believe a talented player can score goals but it takes character to play in a defensive role.

  17. Wiltshire should realise by now that if he wants to smoke then do it in private, after all, he has been through this before and has been talked to by AW about how Arsenal players are to project the club, so if he continues doing the same thing again, well…

    I hope he plays superbly this season and becomes the star he can be.

    Captains? A team should not necessary have to have only one, but A(ny) player must be strong enough to steer and rally the team when things go wrong.

    Captaincies seems to be going the way of monarchies.

  18. I do not think Jack was smoking a nicotine cig.
    I do not think Jack was smoking a hemp cig.
    If you guessed eucalyptus cig, you are correct; it helps prevent asthma attacks in Nevada.
    As to captain: Per; someday Aaron, Jack, even Koscielny.
    Vice-captain: Keep Arteta.
    Honorary president / cheerleader: Podolski.

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