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Will the Real Arsenal Captain Please Stand Up?

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With the dust settling from the kid’s Carabao Cup heroics, it was time to move to Premier League football with struggling Manchester United next on the Gunners’ trails but there has been a niggling issue that hasn’t been sorted out up until this point of the season – who will be the next Arsenal captain?

We will know how our former captain, Laurent Koscielny, bailed on us for pastures anew, activating his full pettiness to go on strike and boycott the US tour, earning some backlash from the fans and club alike, but with Kos out of the equation, as well as Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey leaving the club as well, it clearly meant that Unai Emery had only two ‘captains’ left from his famous five.

Enter Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil, two players that have donned the armband on different occasions this season, but it was never made official, as everyone waited for the gaffer to make the announcement. I was quite surprised to read Rob Holding’s comments after the 5-0 drubbing of Nottingham Forest, where he confirmed that the players had to vote over who would be their next captain,

“We had a vote the other week so we’ll see what happens and see who gets named. We had to write names down and then give them to the manager. He will go through them obviously with his input and then we’ll see what happens. I don’t know. I think it will be in the next couple of days, or weeks. I have no idea. If I get it, then I’ll be more than happy and honoured to do it.”

It’s kinda awkward but it’s not that strange – that’s players having a vote on who to be the captain rather than the manager just making his decision. I’d read that in Manchester City, the players unanimously voted David Silva to take over from Vincent Kompany as he reaches the September of his career with them, even though as vice captain, it seemed only natural for him to take over.

So those votes have been taken and a decision has been made to name Swiss international, Granit Xhaka, as the permanent captain of the club. (via BBC). It seemed like a reasonable decision because Xhaka has always been captain material, from his Borussia Monchengladbach days (we signed him while he was their captain) as well as the mere fact that he’s also the current captain of his nation, Switzerland.

According to reports, the announcement for the vice-captain isn’t known yet, but the whispers are edging toward one of the deadly striking duo, Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as leading contenders for that role.

With Xhaka named as club captain, we can move on from the drama not having a captain to this point had surfaced, and focus on more important things like preparing to defeat Manchester United. I just hope that we don’t have to read an article where a player would say that he voted to Ozil to be captain but he saw Xhaka on his name as his nomination, then Emery screams, ‘good ebening‘ and says that he signed in small letters.

Sayonara.

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That Was an Amazing Comeback, but it Makes You Wonder…

For some reason I failed to rant like crazy following the capitulation at Brighton and thankfully, I’m happy I didn’t because it would probably had been a venomous affair, but with Arsenal frustrating me and other supporters out there, we turned into neutrals to watch the semifinal match between Liverpool and Barcelona. It was certainly an insurmountable task coming back from three goals down, and the fact that they were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino made things more difficult.

I’m certainly not going to give the commentary about the game here but after 90 minutes, they achieved the impossible, winning with four unreplied goals, which made me think – would my beloved Arsenal win Barcelona after conceding three goals away?

Sometimes, you gotta tell yourself the truth – Arsenal has devolved to a Europa League outfit at best. I remember when we were so spoiled into believing that finishing in the top four was our birthright but in the past two seasons, things have gotten really bad to the stage where it looked like Thanos snapped his fingers and our top four ambitions faded into space. It’s not like we are asking for too much as fans – just play well enough, as it should give you that edge when playing against perceived weaker opposition. But with Arsenal, it’s the opposite – if we are not wasting chances, we are gifting the opposition the ball to hurt us, or conceding needless penalties or just playing so badly.

Even with the likes of lethal forwards like Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in our ranks, the Gunners continue to struggle to kill off games, or convert clear cut chances. I don’t wanna talk about what’s going on that the back – yes, Brend Leno has been an inspiration since he took over from Petr Cech but he has had his shaky moments which can only help him to improve in the future, but when you have a certain Skhodran Mustafi making calamitous errors with such consistency at the back, it makes you wonder whether Unai Emery doesn’t see these things as well.

I remember when Jurgen Klopp went to the final last season and his goalie from former club, Mainz, had such a shocker, allowing Real Madrid to waltz into their three Champions League in a row, he wasted no time in signing Alisson Becker from Roma, and he, alongside the imperial Virgil van Dijk of course, have contributed massively to Liverpool’s defense. Meanwhile, we continue to struggle with whoever Emery decides to field in his back line. Imagine a player as important as Laurent Koscielny watching as Kasper Schmeichel lofts a punted effort from his box straight to Jamie Vardy, or Stephan Lichtsteiner heading the ball to Jurgen Locadia when a throw in would have been a better option.

The season is over but the Europa League still offers a silver lining ending so we can only wait and hope that the lads don’t mess things up at Mestalla tomorrow.

Sayonara

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Arsenal Finally have a Balance between Youth and Experience

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For many years in the latter part of Arsene Wenger’s reign as manager of Arsenal, there was a mismatch of players at the club. It was either there too many average players or too many young players. This trend ensured that the North London outfit struggled to compete for the title, as the players available didn’t have the talent, quality and winning mentality on a large scale to see the team over the line.

After Arsenal lost the Champions League Final in 2006, which represented the end of that glorious team of the Invincibles, Arsene Wenger changed the playing philosophy and personnel. He turned to playing young players, but at that time those players matured enough to lead the team to titles, they were sold for a profit. It is not surprising and coincidental that when Arsenal started spending money to buy top quality players, and it ended in ending their trophy drought in 2014 with FA Cup triumph. The building of the Emirates Stadium meant that Wenger didn’t have the funds available to compete with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and latterly, Manchester City.

It’s been 15 years now since Arsenal last won the title, a damning verdict for a team of its stature. Unai Emery has identified major problems and has addressed the issue in the transfer window. He has signed players that will improve the first team, add quality, infuse leadership and most importantly trophy-winning experience. His acquisitions have added balance to the team that needed these personalities after a few years of obscurity.

In the latter stages of the Wenger era, the players just drifted through matches; they were not held accountable for bad results, didn’t have the mental strength needed to win the major trophies and didn’t have a manager that could push them to new levels of play they never thought possible. There are so many young players that need experienced players to guide them. The likes of Cech, Lichtsteiner, Koscielny, Papastathopoulos and Monreal are players that have seen it and done that.

A team needs these blend of old and young players to lead the team to new heights: these old players have one final swansong in their careers while the young ones have the needed experience to become established players. It establishes a cycle of winning at the club. It is what the big teams do to continue winning and challenging for trophies.

The start of the new campaign saw the Gunners take on Manchester City and even though the result was hard to take, the like of Matteo Guendouzi impressed, as we also saw debuts for Sokratis Papathathopoulos, Stephan Lichtsteiner and maverick, Lucas Torreira. A perfect blend of youth and experience to add to a vastly talented squad.

Guest post by Live Arsenal, an Arsenal dedicated website that gives you update about latest news coming from The Emirates Stadium.