Arsenal are again looking for a new captain after Alexandre Lacazette’s departure following the expiry of his contract.
The Frenchman only donned the armband for several months having assumed it from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was allowed to leave the club in January. Little happened in Lacazette’s short lived tenure, other than the Gunners falling out of the top four and missing out on a spot in the Champions League.
Mikel Arteta’s young side are in need of leadership to steer them and the Spaniard will be needing to appoint a 14th captain of the Premier League era for Arsenal. The Gunners have endured success over the last three decades but they’ve also faced periods where they’ve not been competitive.
At times the club has been able to lean on some sensational leaders, whilst on other occasions a lack of senior figures and leadership has been cited as a major chink in their armour. We take a look at the best Arsenal captains of the Premier League days.
1. Patrick Vieira
It was a toss of a coin for the top spot, but the Invincibles season was a defining moment for the club and the Frenchman was the heartbeat of the team. Fitting that he would score the final goal that season, which sealed a comeback against Leicester City. Vieira was also given the unenviable task of following a club legend when he took on the armband.
Vieira’s battles with Roy Keane embodied the spirit of the north London outfit – and this was even before he donned the armband. The World Cup winner is also the only skipper to be present for all three of Arsenal’s title successes. His last kick of the ball for the club saw him convert a penalty that won the 2005 FA Cup.
2. Tony Adams
He began in the Arsenal backline before the Premier League was even incepted. Adams was named as captain at 21, before going on to become the first title-winning skipper in three separate decades. His performances at centre-half have singled him out as among the finest defenders of the past 30 years. It was he who lifted the first Premier League title in Arsenal’s history, scoring in the win over Everton that sealed league success.
3. Thierry Henry
Already a legend when he took on the role of skipper when his long-time teammate Vieira left for Serie A. The striker was now leading a team who had their engine room taken away from them and it showed. Nevertheless he stood up, notably in Champions League games where he took the Gunners to the final in Paris. He was denied the chance to lift the trophy and 12 months later opted to leave for Barcelona, but with his legacy secured.
4. Cesc Fabregas
Much of the success over the past 30 years has largely seen Adams or Vieira hoist aloft the silverware. Fabregas was unable to follow in their footsteps, but to take on the captaincy so young, 21 to be precise, was bold from the Spaniard. Long thought of as a bright spark, Fabregas continued to emerge and was the heartbeat of the side. He would eventually leave, returning to Barcelona in 2012.
5. Mikel Arteta
His legacy may well rest on how his current tenure as coach goes. Nevertheless, Arteta played for the Gunners in the latter part of his career and was a seasoned professional, which no doubt helped his leadership. He became captain in 2014 and quickly helped Arsenal win the Community Shield. Injuries would limit his appearance count but the club would go on to retain the FA Cup that year, even if he was absent at Wembley.
6. Robin van Persie
This was a toss up. Van Persie certainly engineered his Arsenal exit – and it was made worse that he decided to join Manchester United. That said, it seems to be a recurring theme with the club’s captains. He was only the skipper for one season, but should you judge his on field performances then you’d have little to wrangle with. He, almost singlehandedly at times, led Arsenal to fourth spot, picking up the PFA Player of the Year award en route.
7. Thomas Vermaelen
There seems to be a thing about Arsenal captains not starting in FA Cup finals and it was the same for the Belgian in 2014. For a long time he was the club’s best centre-half but his performances did dip after being handed the armband. In the end he was only the skipper for 12 months and – like several who donned the captaincy before him – he swapped north London for Barcelona.
8. Per Mertesacker
The German was given the armband for the final two years of his time at the Emirates. Mertesacker didn’t enjoy his peak years at Arsenal, but the fact he remains at the club and works with their young stars is testament to his personality. The defender was the club captain for the 2017 FA Cup success and started in the 2-1 win over Chelsea.
9. Alexandre Lacazette
Its not that the Frenchman did much right – he just didn’t do a huge amount wrong, which is more than can be said for a lot of the club’s other skippers in recent years. Lacazette’s contract saga was an issue, but the club showed no great desire to keep the player. The forward also spent much of his time at the club in the shadow of Aubameyang.
10. Granit Xhaka
Holding a vote for a captain is always a risky strategy. In one way it shows a lack of conviction from the coach and it also leaves itself open to being a popularity contest. Nevertheless, in Emery’s tenure the Swiss midfielder was handed the captaincy. However, near the top of the ‘things not to do’ list must’ve been clash with the club’s fans? Xhaka’s infamous reaction against Crystal Palace saw him stripped of the captaincy within months.
11. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
One of the recent incumbents of the armband. At times the Gabon international was the shining light, which was a large reason he got handed a new deal in the summer of 2020. However, within 12 months he was being reprimanded for disciplinary issues. That wasn’t a one off and an incident in December proved the final straw for Arteta. Aubameyang’s saga proved such an issue that Arsenal let him leave for nothing in January.
12. Laurent Koscielny
Had he handled his exit better than the Frenchman may well have been higher on the list. His performances highlighted his quality and he often drew praise from his competitors. Koscielny led Arsenal to the Europa League final in his one year as captain, but then decided he wanted out. The defender refused to join up with the club in pre-season and then, when he’d secured his exit, announced his Bordeaux move in a questionable manner.
13. William Gallas
Surely rule one: If you play and captain Arsenal, don’t then move directly to Tottenham following a contract dispute. That though is exactly what Gallas did. As if scripted, he then skippered his new team to victory at the Emirates within months of leaving Arsenal. Gallas is perhaps most remembered for his reaction to a draw at Birmingham City, which eventually saw Wenger have to drag him off the pitch.