Mikel Arteta faces tough captain decision as Arsenal battle to West Ham victory

Posted Thursday, December 16, 2021 by Express.co.uk

ARSENAL battled to a 2-0 victory against West Ham on Wednesday night

A route into the top four was at stake, yet the race for the Champions League places was almost a secondary narrative to Arsenal’s victory against West Ham United. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, stripped from his captaincy after another disciplinary issue, may not have been included in the Gunners’ squad against David Moyes’ side, but his absence was almost more noticeable than many of his performances over the last eighteen months.

The Gunners’ armband has been likened to a poison chalice in recent days, yet it’s frequent passing from one different player to another in recent seasons, suggests it is more like a hot potato. Alexandre Lacazette, a player who appears destined to leave the club for free at the end of next season, wore the armband against the Hammers.

Neither club nor player have decided Lacazette’s future, but Arsenal’s well documented pursuit of Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic indicates he is not within Arteta and Edu’s plans. Interestingly three of the four purported candidates, Martin Odegaard, Kieran Tierney, and Granit Xhaka, all started against the East Londoners, in what could almost be interpreted as an audition for the captaincy.

However, Arsenal played with a wonderful cohesive drive, determination, and intensity which appeared to take the Hammers by surprise. Very few sides have overwhelmed Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek in the central areas yet that is exactly what the Gunners did in the opening stages.

Leadership, guts, and in the exotic words of Troy Deeney, ‘Cojones’, have been attributed with things the Gunners are missing, yet nobody would have inferred an absence of these things. Tierney came closest to opening the scoring with a spectacular 35-yard-half volley which was miraculously tipped onto the crossbar by Lukasz Fabianski.

Mikel Arteta faces tough captain decision as Arsenal battle to West Ham victory
Arteta has a very tough decision on his sides (Image: GETTY)

Nuno Tavares’ impressive displays since arriving from Benfica in the summer has reduced Tierney’s appearances recently, yet the Scotsman’s tenacious bite and vocal presence is unrelentingly infection.

Arsenal may not have a regular occupant of the armband anymore, by there was leadership all over the pitch. Tierney appeared to be the man leading the line, Xhaka marshalled the space in front of the defence well, Odegaard was an effective attacking metronome in the final third, and Lacazette could have opened the scoring were it not for some impressive stops by Fabianski and the Hammers’ defence.

This is an Arsenal side powered by the enthusiastic fearlessness of youth, supplemented with hardened veterans who can serenade said youngsters with as many tails of Gunners’ disappointment as they could failure. However, if Arteta and Edu’s focus is on the future of the club, then their decision on who will become the Gunners’ twelfth permanent captain in fourteen years.

A fitting choice would be one of the players at the front and centre of their revolution. Yet, with a starting eleven permeating with young stars still to flourish and solidify in equal measure.

The last ten skippers have included, but not limited to, individuals who forced transfers out of North London, injury hit stars who spent almost as much time on the physio’s table rather than the pitch, and disgruntled players who eventually saw the armband ripped from their arm.

However, perhaps the permanent residence of the armband is a decision to be made at the beginning of next season. Lacazette may have been the person wearing the armband, but nobody in an Arsenal shirt shirked the responsibility.

And the Frenchman flourished under the pressure of the captaincy; unlocking West Ham’s watertight defence to open the scoring. Lacazette stepped inside and sucked in the Hammers defence, before spinning on a pin head and sliding Gabriel Martinelli through on goal, who perfectly slotted into the bottom corner.

Lacazette may very well depart the club at the end of the season, but what would the damage be if Arteta were to let him stroll into the transfer sunset as the leader of the next crop of talent?

It would give Arteta, Edu, and the rest of the squad to fastidiously assess and analyse all of the possible candidates.

Mikel Arteta faces tough captain decision as Arsenal battle to West Ham victory
Lacazette put in a strong captain's performance against the Hammers (Image: GETTY)

The Frenchman strolled into the West Ham penalty area to win, what should have been, a crucial penalty in the 68th minute.

Unfortunately, with the Hammers at his mercy, he could not assure the three points, as Fabianski excellently saved his spot-kick. It would have been the perfect crowning to an impressive captain’s performance.

Fortunately, Emile Smith-Rowe spared his blushed and sealed the victory with a classy second goal, but the Frenchman's performance everything can suddenly change at the Emirates – just look at the last eleven captains. Fortunately for the north Londoners, the penalty miss did not alter final proceedings.

Every team needs a strong captain to rally the troops, but every Arsenal captain from Aubameyang to Patrick Vieira would tell you the greatest motivation is results and confidence.

Arsenal have won both their matches since Aubameyang risked the wrath of Arteta. And if all of the potential candidates continue to perform to these levels, then the next Arsenal captain could be leading out the side in the Champions League.

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