Arsenal beat high-flying West Ham United 2-0 on Wednesday to go above their London rivals and into fourth place in the Premier League as we approach the halfway point of the season.
It was the Gunners’ second outing since coach Mikel Arteta removed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as captain over what the club described as “his latest disciplinary breach,” having initially dropped him for Saturday’s 3-0 win over Southampton.
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Aubameyang, who was dropped from the squad for the last two matches, had only been named skipper when Granit Xhaka was stripped of the responsibility following a confrontation with fans during a game at the Emirates in November 2019.
Alexandre Lacazette wore the captain’s armband once more against the Hammers and led his side in one of their most convincing performances of the season. However, while his failure to find the net may be unrelated, the French forward did fail to convert a penalty with that accursed elastic albatross gripped around his bicep.
Asked if Lacazette will now be confirmed as Arsenal’s next captain, Arteta said: “Well he’s the next in line and he’s taken it the way everybody saw today — with such a pride and commitment, and I’m really happy with the way he played.”
Even if the Gunners decide to make Lacazette their new captain on a full-time basis, they may once again be looking for a new one as they don’t seem overly rushed in extending the 29-year-old’s contract, which expires in the summer.
But scholars of Arsenal’s recent history will know that it is par for the course to be searching around for a new player to name as their captain. Things started to head south right about the point when club legend Thierry Henry assumed the armband from Patrick Vieira ahead of the 2005-06 season.
Thierry Henry: 2005-2007
Henry had been flirting with Barcelona for over a year, which became a bit awkward when the Gunners lost to them in the 2006 Champions League final. A year later, Henry cut the cord and departed for Camp Nou having only scored 10 goals for the Gunners during his last, injury-disrupted campaign in north London.
William Gallas: 2007-08
Gallas inherited the Arsenal captaincy for the 2007-08 season but only lasted until the following February, when his infamous on-pitch tantrum following a game against Birmingham City cost him the armband. Arsenal were five points clear at the top of the Premier League going into the match but, after a late penalty secured a 2-2 draw for relegation-battling Birmingham, a visibly emotional Gallas sat down on the field at the final whistle and remained there for several minutes. His strop became symbolic of Arsenal’s subsequent title collapse.
With Gallas stripped of the captaincy in the wake of his sit-in, Fabregas took over. In fairness, the midfielder lasted three seasons in the post, but the writing was on the wall when his Spain teammates pranked him by pulling a Barcelona shirt over his head during their 2010 World Cup celebrations. Fabregas returned to his boyhood club the following year.
Robin van Persie: 2011-12
Van Persie stepped into the captaincy wake left by Fabregas for the 2011-12 season where he remained for precisely one year before signing for bitter rivals Manchester United, with whom he promptly scored a bucket-load of goals and won the Premier League title.
Vermaelen was the next poor sap in line to take the armband, though a relentless bout of injuries put paid to the Belgian defender’s tenure after two stymied seasons. In something of a shock move, he too joined Barcelona in 2014.
Mikel Arteta: 2014-16
Arteta stepped into the breach for the 2014-15 season but again almost instantly succumbed to injury, making six league starts in his first year as captain and then none at all in his second. He has since returned to manage the club, but the captaincy has continued to cause him problems.
Per Mertesacker: 2016-18
The injury hex continued into 2016-17 and 2017-18 as poor old Mertesacker was made captain. The big German defender was restricted to just four league starts over the course of his two seasons with the armband, although he did end on a high with an FA Cup win before retiring.
Nouveau joueur, nouveau maillot, retrouvez-le dès maintenant ici ➡ https://t.co/6Jb2BRKbIo pic.twitter.com/eCfsGaSUYS
— FC Girondins de Bordeaux (@girondins) August 6, 2019
Koscielny was saddled with the Gunners’ captaincy for 2018-19, a tumultuous season that saw the France international (who had been at the club for nine years) ultimately refuse to play before cementing his exit in perhaps the most ungrateful manner possible: announcing his transfer to Bordeaux by removing his Arsenal jersey to reveal his new club’s colours underneath. It was also interesting that then-manager Unai Emery’s “captain’s group” of four other players included Aaron Ramsey (wound down his contract to join Juventus on a free), Petr Cech (retired to play ice hockey), Mesut Ozil (frozen out before fleeing to Turkey) and Xhaka (see below).
Granit Xhaka: 2019-20
Xhaka was not a popular choice of captain in terms of fan support, and they let the Switzerland international know that back in November 2019 after his team blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Crystal Palace. Upon being subbed off in the second half, Xhaka reacted badly, cupped his ear to the hecklers and promptly lost the support of even his most ardent terrace advocates. The midfielder has been in and out of the Arsenal team since but, you never know, he might be in contention for a second stab at captaincy following Auba’s dramatic fall from grace.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 2020-21
On the surface, everything appeared to be going swimmingly for Aubameyang when he signed a new three-year contract at Arsenal in September of 2020. Aubameyang was perhaps chosen in the hope that he would thrive under the added responsibility.
Unfortunately, not long thereafter the Gabon international’s form began to dip. The goals soon dried up too, with the former Golden Boot winner having now scored just 15 league goals in 43 games since the start of the 2020-21 season.
Then, just weeks after declaring himself to be the “coolest captain in the league, maybe the world” in a misguided and ill-timed fit of pique, Aubameyang was out on his ear after one disciplinary breach too many.