I like Thomas Vermaelen: he always plays with his heart on his sleeve and has only said nice things about our club. From the start of the season, however, I have argued that not Vermaelen but Mertesacker should be our captain.
Wenger tends to undervalue the importance of choosing the right captain, and as a result our on-field leader is often chosen based on a mixture of length of service and importance within the team. I agree with Wenger that leadership is a responsibility of the whole team, and there definitely is a need for more than just one leader on the pitch. But for most footballers the captaincy of a team still means a lot, and many players benefit enormously from the presence and guidance of a proper captain.
To lead a team, whether at work or in sports, you need to have certain capabilities. I have seen many a colleague promoted to a leadership role while totally not suitable for it. Often technical specialists within a team/department/organisation are promoted to a leadership role as a means of reward for his/her great contributions to the business, or as a retention measure.
But a technical specialist often does not know how, or even like, to deal with leadership issues: such as sorting out inter-colleague disputes, or having to stand in front of a group and tell them what to do, give them a rollocking, or motivate them.
Thomas Vermaelen is a technical specialist. He is a good defender with plenty of stamina, and great in the air and on the ground. But he needs to concentrate on what he does and remain focussed throughout the game; if he doesn’t he will make mistakes.
And this season TV5 has made a number of painful and costly mistakes; most notably against MU when he meekly gifted VJ the ball, so the Dutchman could do nothing else but score. And there have been more of these sorts of avoidable and costly mistakes, and many have occurred in the top games.
Vermaelen needs to be left to do his job, and rather be led by somebody else than having to lead others. In my view, Arsene should never have offered him the captaincy, and Tommy should never have accepted it.
The natural leader in our defence is Mertesacker: leading the line is his biggest asset, but with Vermaelen as our captain, Per was not able to be his natural self. On top of that, because Vermaelen was our captain, another fantastic CB suffered in equal amounts: Koscielny. Until recently, Wenger played his captain automatically, if and when fit, which meant that Koz ended on the bench most of the time. Yet many of us have argued that Mertesacker and Koz are our best pairing out of the available CBs.
I reckon Vermaelen is quite similar in style and quality to Koscielny, but since he was made captain, Vermaelen has dropped dramatically in form. So much in fact, there are now strong rumours he will be sold this summer. I reckon there is some truth in this, but it would be a real shame. I don’t see him necessarily as a first choice CB, but he would be great back up; and we know from previous seasons how much we need strength in depth in this area of our defence.
The best thing to do now is to remove the captaincy from Vermaelen asap, and give it either to Arteta or Mertesacker; the latter being my preference.
Mertesacker, whether the new captain or not, should be made responsible for organising our defence and lead this area of our team. Vermaelen and Koz can then compete with each other to become Per’s first choice partner at the back, and I have no doubt that whoever wins this battle will thrive under the guidance and organisational skills of the BFG.
It is not yet too late for Tommy, but I feel strongly he has become the next victim of the leadership trap; and unless Koz gets injured or suspended, we might not see him many more games in an Arsenal shirt. That would be a real shame.
Written by: Total Arsenal.