Well, it’s official then. The Arsenal captaincy is most definitely cursed.
After his remarkable meltdown in front of jeering home “supporters” on Sunday afternoon, Granit Xhaka became the latest inductee to Arsenal’s armband hall of shame in epic fashion.
It wasn’t always like this, you know. Think of legendary skippers such as Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira and how they used to lead by example. But ever since the club moved to the Emirates Stadium, the Gunners have been let down by their figurehead time and time again.
But, where does Xhaka rank in the motley crew that is Arsenal’s worst-ever captains?
6. Cesc Fabregas (2008–2011)
The gifted Spaniard was the beating heart of the club’s “Project Youth” and took on the armband at the age of 21 after then-skipper William Gallas hit the self-destruct button once again (more on that walking disaster show later).
Fabregas was regularly sidelined with injury after being made captain (sound familiar, Gooners?) but was undeniably brilliant when he did play. However, it didn’t take long for his head to be turned by the appeal of a homecoming move to Barcelona.
After constant flirting with the Catalans, Cesc eventually began downing tools – opting to attend the Spanish Grand Prix on the last day of the 2010/11 season rather than watch his teammates, before going on strike during pre-season in order to force the move through.
Despite his transparent tweeting after departing, Fabregas ended up at rivals Chelsea just three years later.
Once a gunner, always a gunner. Have a good day guys.
— Cesc Fàbregas Soler (@cesc4official) August 16, 2011
Once a snake, always a snake…
Craptaincy rating: 7/10
5. Robin van Persie (2011–2012)
After Fabregas’ departure, the next shambles kicked straight into gear. On the pitch at least, Van Persie did the armband justice for once, hitting 30 league goals to guide the Gunners into the top four.
However, with just a year left on his contract at the end of the season, the Dutchman wrote an open letter on his own website stating it had “become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward”. Translation: my team isn’t good enough to win trophies.
Van Persie promptly jumped ship to bitter rivals Manchester United and fired Sir Alex’s side to the Premier League title. Oh, and he scored against his old club in both league meetings that year. Charming.
Craptaincy rating: 8/10
4. Thomas Vermaelen (2012–2014)
The Verminator initially won over Arsenal fans after signing in 2009 with his tough tackling and knack of nabbing a goal. However, it all went rapidly downhill after he was appointed captain in August 2012.
The Belgian’s form plummeted, the lowlight being a missed penalty during his side’s embarrassing League Cup exit to lowly Bradford. Struggling with injury and confidence, captain Vermaelen lost his place to Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, and was an unused substitute when Arsenal ended their nine-year trophy drought with victory in the 2014 FA Cup final against Hull.
Although that didn’t stop him being a full kit w**ker when lifting the trophy in full kit.
Inexplicably, Barcelona signed him that summer and he instantly became best friends with their comfiest treatment room table.
Craptaincy rating: 8/10
3. Laurent Koscielny (2018–2019)
So often the de facto captain due to injuries to BFG Per Mertesacker and Lego hair model Mikel Arteta, Koscielny was only officially given the armband at the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
The Frenchman missed the first four months of the season as he recovered from an exploded Achilles and struggled for form whenever he did play. Then it all turned to merde this summer when he too went on strike, refusing to board the plane to the club’s pre-season tour of America. Instead he stayed behind to engineer a move back home to Bordeaux.
He eventually got his way and immediately proceeded to take the piss out of the Gunners with this classless announcement video:
— FC Girondins de Bordeaux (@girondins) August 6, 2019
Craptaincy rating: 9/10
2. William Gallas (2007–2008)
Awarding the armband to someone who only ended up at your club because he threatened to score own goals against his present team unless he got his own way was always a questionable decision.
Inevitably, it came back to haunt Arsene Wenger.
After Arsenal gifted Birmingham a last-minute penalty at St Andrew’s, Gallas stormed off and sat in the centre circle rather than defend any potential rebound. The Blues scored, and Gallas stayed there until Wenger himself had to drag him off. It was the sort of leadership you’d normally expect from the first lemming to jump off the cliff edge.
Then in November 2008, Gallas revealed tensions among the squad and stated in an interview that the younger players needed to show more courage. That proved to be the final straw and he was immediately stripped off the captaincy, with Wenger opting for Cesc Fabregas to replace him.
That worked out well…
Craptaincy rating: 10/10
1. Granit Xhaka (2019)
Unpopular with the fans, woefully out of form, remarkably prone to costly individual errors, and only captain because he won a popularity contest in the dressing room rather than be chosen by the manager. What a shambles!
Fans’ frustrations with their captain culminated in an episode that will forever be known as ‘Xhakagate’. As his number came up against Crystal Palace, fans ironically cheered. But as Xhaka slowly trudged off and gestured sarcastically to the crowd in reaction, that quickly turned to ire.
As captain you simply have to show leadership skills and self-control, two things Xhaka clearly doesn’t possess. Although we’ve given him the same 10/10 craptaincy rating as Gallas, Xhaka just about edges this given he told the fans of the club he captains to “f*ck off” in their home stadium. Yep, that’ll do it.
Can he ever wear the armband again? You’d think not, but given we’re back in peak banter club mode at the Emirates, Emery will probably reward him with a bumper new contract and Mesut Ozil’s prime parking space.
Anybody betting against it?
Craptaincy rating: 10/10