Is it time to hand Per Mertesacker the armband?

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Leadership, whether in sport or business, is a fascinating topic. Some believe teams do not need to have one leader; that all can lead together. I guess the latter is true as long as things go well. The football equivalent to the Harlem Globetrotters, from the city with the beautiful horizon, did not seem to need a leader, as trophy after trophy was won with breathtakingly beautiful post-total football. But then Guardiola left and slowly it became clear who their real leader had been; and when Barcelona was being humiliated by Die Lederhosen, home and away, there was nobody who stood up and ordered the troops to fight back.


I am not going to be entirely popular on my own site by stating that Wenger has been quite poor in choosing his leaders for the team, especially in recent times. I reckon this is because he does not really rate the captaincy of his team, as he expects the whole team to lead itself, rather than just one individual doing it.


I also believe there should be more than one leader, so that when things are not going well on the pitch various people stand up and fight for the cause. The best test of our leadership ability is when we play our most loathed opponent in recent history, the Mancs. Last year, the first year of the traitor at Manure, was so poor in terms of leadership, epitomised by Vermaelen’s early, painful capitulation by meekly handing that boy-man the ball on a silver plate.


Two weeks ago, our leadership on the pitch was a bit better, but it still was not brilliant. We played with too much respect for our opponent and did not really play with the belief we would be able to turn things round. Flamini and Arteta did their best to get the troops going but it was not enough. 


Watching Mertesacker operating as the captain for Germany made me think again what a fine captain he would be for Arsenal. I have written a few posts over the years stating that Wenger should never have made Vermaelen our captain but have handed the armband to our BFG instead. Vermaelen has become a worse player as a result of the captaincy, as for me he is a specialist rather than a natural leader, who needs to focus hard on his own role rather than also having to think about team management as well. Why he is still the captain is beyond me and can only be explained by Wenger’s apparent belief that it does not really matter who captains our team.


Yet, Mertesacker’s strengths are organisation and leadership and I reckon we would still get a lot more out of him by HONOURING him with the armband. The longer he has been with us the more I believe he is our new Tony Adams, and there have not been many good leaders as Adams has been for us in recent history.

The BFG is not just a brilliant reader of the game and excellent organiser of his defence – just like Adams was; he also has that bit of mongrel in him, that real desire to win and put his heart and soul into every performance. He loves Arsenal and the rest look up to him.

I love all these qualities in Mertesacker and for me it is time to hand him the armband; to make him our captain, our leader. It will give him wings and the team the leadership it craves for. 

But what do you think, fine fellow Gooners? 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

41 thoughts on “Is it time to hand Per Mertesacker the armband?

  • Fair comment TA. If we were picking a captain now, I’m sure Mert would be top of the list. As you say, Wenger doesn’t really value the captain role, and has bestowed it on previous players simply as an honour of seniority – and has lived to regret it. I don’t think Wenger wants to humiliate Verm (indeed he wants him to stay with us and compete) and that is the only reason he has not ‘stripped’ him of the role – that and the sense that Mert’s leadership will come through on the field with or without the armband.

    Personally, I’m closer to the Wenger school of thought here – the armband doesn’t imbue the player with leadership qualities; they either have it (and show it) or they don’t. What Wenger at least seems to have recognised of late is the value of the leadership quality within his squad, and the shortcoming of investing only in the combination of pace, intelligence and technique within our squad. We have bought stronger characters as well as developed youth with a degree of grit. We are not fully formed yet, but we are no longer the fragile aesthetes we have been in recent years.

  • Good post, TA. I guess over the past few seasons, the Captaincy has become something like a curse. Whoever gets it literally has a foot out the door. At the time of Vermaelen’s selection, he was a rock for us and a solid performer. Most of us thought he would make a decent Captain because he plays like a wounded warrior and that was what we needed at the time. However, now that we have got so much talent, maturity, and natural improvement throughout the whole team, you are correct. Wenger should have changed Captains at the start of the season, but we all know how stubborn the prof is. Taking the armband away from the Verminator after only a single season basically means that Wenger would have indirectly admitted that he was wrong to have handed it to Vermaelen in the first place. I believe he will give it to someone else next season, for sure. It is just terrible for a team Captain to sit and warn the bench instead of leading the team out onto the pitch.
    Like you TA, the BFG would be my choice but something tells me Wenger really likes Mikel Arteta a lot. We shall see what happens in the future but first thing first, bring on Southampton!

  • Good post TA…
    Completely agree, BFG is the man for the armband.
    I personally believe that a team captain, if he is the right man and respected within the dressing room, can have a definate beneficial influence on the team and it’s mentality…
    The wrong man, equally, can cause division and affect morale…

  • Well done, Total… 😉

    My thoughts about this are in the last thread, but I will add that Vermaelen got the armband due to timing…and the fact that, on occasion he had the “passion” to pursue a result (with a goal, often from a set piece…) when others would have just gone about their business and kept to the duties of their own position…

    IMO there IS value in honoring (that’s how we spell it…) the BFG’s contributions. By selecting him and giving him (or Arteta) the arm band, aren’t we already doing so? Maybe a contract extension is the next honor for him. At the moment, I’m more worried about Sagna extending his contract. Maybe, if a change must be made, it should go to him. From reports on dressing room behavior, he’s been the exact opposite of Gallas (another French defender…) and maybe *that* should be rewarded…

    Interesting also that you mention Barca, captained as they are, by Carles Puyol (though you mention neither by name)… Their best player, like ours, leads by example and with his play. (I won’t mention them, but both have parts of their names that rhyme with “dressy.”) Barca, I think, had more trouble due to injury to that guy than to their captain, much as we might (touch wood, of course)…

    Overall, I defer to the “leadership” expert but ask a final question. Does a “strong” manager (Guardiola, Wenger) weaken the contribution of his captain, and visa-versa?…Maybe as long as we’ve got AW at the helm (another contract to extend…) we’ll be fine with our captain on the bench…

  • Hi TA

    Interesting! We are also going to agree, here at our intersection..

    I tend to side with AW about a team game and flow, and less restricted or narrow roles.

    However, I agree with you here that, especially in the crunch, the reins have to be held and pulled firmly.

    For Arsenal, now, BFG would be the guy and a great leader, both Presence! and calming presence, while commanding respect to have all hear what he says. It’s not about having fire when it’s needed, its also the ability to convey calm and consistency when all around are starting to run round crazy and flailing. Call it the ability to communicate and deliver a shared set of values or a “this is *our* way and we will do it!”

    AR and/or JW will have the goods, I think, in 4-5 more years, but it’s very much a maturity and experience thing where Cesc is the, IMO, rarer example of having it all at a younger age.

    Where I think AW has sometimes gone wrong is with picking those who havent proven themselves both on the field and in committment to the club. That must go hand in hand with the personality to carry and deliver those shared values, in this case, “the Arsenal way” if you will. That means fire when we are not living up to it, and calm when we need to stay the course and be strong.

    TV had the former (on field and committment) but doesnt have the latter (personality and communication skills), I think. RvJ before him had the field proof and the personality, but not the committment to more than his inner self.

    That over simplifies a lot about leadership, but I think hits it well.

    Equally, Sagna would be a good choice perhaps, and in future years Gibbs looks to rise to the occasion as might Theo. Our younger crop is perhaps quite full of those who could offer the whole package.

    Regarding strong coaches and lesser leaders. Same could be said for SAF at ManU and the lack of presence of Kompany at City. And heck, who actually is Chelsea’s captain. The problem is that when shit hits the fan on the field, the coach cant play and from the sideline is a lesser impact, especially with our sometimes younger teams.

    So, great post, I am with you on this one. It is the case where the word “team” must have one “I” in it!

    cheers — jgc

  • T,
    A couple of thoughts. I LIKE tommy alot, i think he deserves to be rotated in a bit more, problem always that Arsene hates to rotate in general, especially cb.
    when we were having an exodus of star players, we were waiting for our Verminator to come back from a bad injury, and he very quickly showed me something by being the first man pledging his loyalty to the team by extending with
    us, it was a nice feeling the way we were all hurt
    by cesc, nasri, clichy. It also showed Tommys
    appreciation that we stuck with him through
    injury. Too bad RVP didnt show that appreciation.

    i also remember that in Mertesackers first season, our bfg wasnt playing badly personally, but took the blame for all around poor defending by the team. Pundits, press, and arsenal bloggers saying he was too slow and meek for the prem.
    ——— i was calling that ridiculous right then and there. He played very well ( except for one play where he was too timid against- i think- grant holt?– everyone used that to bash Per unfairly. He was very good right up until he hurt his ankle badly. He has been great ever since, and i think he would make a great captain, but its not neccessary.

    i wanted us to sign him before he came here, and i have been more than happy with the results.
    did i notice him wearing the german captain band?

    i love how the press says our defense is a
    weakness. Though we have per for Germany,
    Kozzer for france as starters. — and we play
    excellent team defense to boot.

    this along with our brilliant midfield is why we can win the league.

    i say, lets not embarass Vermaelen, try to keep him as a productive player, and happy.
    our BFG is so well adjusted that captaincy wont change his effort or quality at all. Maybe a better time will come to award him the armband.

    he knows we love him.

  • Can I just apologise to all who came and added their bits and pieces to the last post.

    I am sorry I couldn’t participate – my broadband connection was a nightmare. Forever cutting out, requiring resets, etc. but to no avail. I think the northerly near gale force winds are blowing branches on to my outside line is what is responsible. It might be the same today?

    Now I will read the new post ..

  • Hi all.. Long time no see..

    TA.. for me.. Whoever being our Captain is fine.. Vermaelen or Arteta oke.. Mertesacker okay.. Wlshere oke.. Sagna okay.. Rosicky or Cazorla also okay.. hehehehe..
    But if the trend continue.. (selling our captain).. then better Mertesacker or Wilshere or Cazorla not becomed our captain.. hehehe..

    I’m more concern who will play as our starting eleven..
    And I’m still in my opinion.. that some players are just dont match each other.. (sorry Gerry)

    1. Don’t play Vermaelen and Koscielny together.. Just choose Mert-Kos or Mert-Verm..
    or if needed then better play Sagna.. Mert-Sagna or Sagna-Kos is better than Verm-Kos.. hehehe..

    2. Don’t play Arteta and Flamini together.. They will make our team more slower.. we need to attack more.. cause attacking is the best defence.. And all our team can do the defender’s job also.. See what Giroud, Rosicky, Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere and Cazorla did.. they all our attacking players.. yet they can do the defence..
    Flamini-Ramsey or Flamini-Wilshere, Arteta-Ramsey or Arteta-Wilshere.. is the choice..

    3. Don’t play Wilshere and Ramsey together.. hehehe.. Eventhough they both a great players.. they just don’t sinergies each other.. Better keep one as a sub for the other..

    I wish Walcott will play again Soton.. So Ramsey will not play as a RW.. but as a DM..
    We must win.. We must prove it.. even ‘Saint’ also can be defeated with our Gun.. hehehe..

    Go Gunners.. We are The Champion..

  • TA – I will make this shorter than usual because much of what I would say has been said.

    The nitty griity may come down to AW not valuing the title of ‘captain’, but the players do tend to need leadership in certain areas. If that leadership is undermined by the ‘captain’, or not being captain, then something is lost.

    At the moment, the vice captain is the one mostly on field, Arteta, and probably leaves the defensive organisation to Per. To some extent, he leaves the midfield driving and energising to Flamini, Wilshere, and Rosicky, whenever they are able to play. He is probably the balance to calm the others. Of that quartet, Rosicky probably has both qualitites because of his experience? So in a way, AW is right, there are leaders all over the pitch?

    But the one place where you want a strong voice that can organise and be calm, it is in defence?

    Per is that man, no question.

  • Very timely piece Totes!! I agree BFG is the man but le prof is saving his own backside!! Combined with loyalty to Verminator … He will wait until next season I feel…
    Wenger’s socialist beliefs integrate with his own mini political empire at the Arsenal which is why wage structure and the issue of captaincy is kept on semi equal basis.
    Basically le prof is the captain, which is actually the best for the team but like you say he can’t be the man on the field when the going gets tough!!
    Verms best form of leadership was in attack which is wierd coming from a defender!! 😀
    But it’s true and when that attacking edge dropped along with his defensive edge he looked twice as weak which is a bit unfair really!
    I just hope we can hang on as long as poss to Verm because he has been exemplary and loyal and le prof rewards these traits more than anything IMO 😀
    Ps . Wakey wakey sleeping beauty bastardos!! 😆

  • Hell it’s not Friday BK Bastardos!! Is Cockie throwing a Lesbania and Tranny interlull party in the annex!!
    Everybody has been roofied!! 😆

  • Thanks for fine, top quality comments FFG’s. Good to see a lot of recognition of the BFG as a leader. Vermaelen being kept on as captain whilst being kept on the bench constantly is cruel IMO. A captain should play, and if he’s not good enough to play, he should not be captain anymore. TV has actually been brilliant about the whole thing and I rate him a lot for that.

    The way BFG played on Wednesday and led his team was brilliant, and I hope AW does the right thing and make him our own captain – it would make total sense to Total! 🙂

  • Haha … It’s alright Totes … I know you got your pink cloggs and pink tutu on listening to Bony M in Cockies tranny annex!! Woop didi wooooooop!!! 😆

  • Cockie in the corner handing out “special bake” … Gerry and JGC in a deep game of tranny strip chess in the corner … JB brushing his long locks with his head tilting back laughing aaaahahahahaha …. Vickers on the decks … Oh hang on he’s just lost his balance and got his hands stuck to a couple of plates of cheese sticks … 😆 … PG on security keeping all Totscumb at bay enjoying a free frisk of all who enter 😆 … Henry chan helping Cockie with cookie distribution with a welcoming yet deadly smile 😆 … Ozzie on visual entertainment with strobe and projector … 17h juggling with his axes in a psychedeli lumber jack shirt …. And Stretch at the door to Men in Black every ones memories as the leave the door when they leave!!haha 😆
    Dam you guys are the best!! Sorry if I missed anyone!! Wasnt on purpose!! Only that you’ve been quiet lately and temporarily forgot you!! 😀

  • I would be happy with Arteta , or BFG, if TV5 is not going to start still, it has all been said really with Wenger not wanting to make TV5 lose even more confidence by taking it away.
    Arteta and BFG are the natural leaders with Flem as well. It is not a major problem and Arteta will be captain while he is on the bench and that is good with me.
    Can’t wait for Saturday, i got tickets 🙂

  • Or maybe your in the back rooms getting your freak on with Cockies trannys!! Haha 😆

  • Fozzie,
    I am chuffed it is hard to get tickets at the moment , not as much as your party above though. What was VCC doing he wil not pleased you forgot him.

  • Ozil- Giroud- Cazorla- Rambo and at last Walcott i have been waiting a long time to see them link up, did not think i would get to do it live 🙂

  • Szcz, the back 4 standard, Arteta, Rambo , Ozil Cazorla, Giroud, Walcott would be my choice of team . The only 1 i was not sure was if he starts Arteta or Flemini or both, either work well, i dont think we need both for Southampton

  • I will do my best to get them going Fozzie, i am normally in or around the clock end and i haft to agree it is too quiet most times . Away fans are awesome. I will see what they are like on Sat 🙂

  • Flame is out for his card so I think theo might start or come off the bench for rocky.
    Well done for getting there PG … Off to bed now PG … Gots to get my beauty sleep before the weekend minding the rock stars!! 😀

  • Morning all, Well with the ‘interlull’ out of the way we are back to the serious stuff?

    This Southampton one is tricky. They can defend, high press, and play nice football too. So who will come out on top, given that that is what we would like to do?

    I am just hoping that international duty might just have taken the edge of Lallana.

    I also hope that our defence keeps Ritchie quiet.

    Going forward we have to get past one of the meanest defence in the league.

    They are a bit like us in not having many shots on target, but the scoring ratio is quite good.. So I expect few clear cut chances, and if we are to win, we have to make the most of them.

    Team speculation will be rife: Is Wilshere not injured enough to risk starting him? Is Ramsey’s groin strain a thing that comes and goes? Will Rosicky be okay after his bout with the bug? Who partners Arteta, with Flamini serving his one match ban? Does Walcott start?

    Equally, who will make the bench if any of the above fail completely?

    Let’s start with a 0-0 draw, and improve our optimism when we see the line up. in the meantime I guess we have to wait for the mighty OG preview?

    Oh! and if there is a New Post in the next hour or so, I’ll copy this an afterthought.

  • Gerry

    Nobody, but the very very best play nice football vs us and win now… Not without kicking us too… Thus, Soton give up few goals, 1-0 to the good guys! If a second come it’ll be late, after 78 mins…

    Cheers — jgc

  • Good Morning Gerry…….sorry to get off subject a minute…….treble today =

    Amis Reunis
    Dutiful Son


  • Your welcome Vickers!! Has Cockie been frequenting your local Chinese again? Either that it his revlon lippy run has got a bit longer … 😆

    Bendtner aside, look at how good Benik Afobe has come back from injury… he scored a peach .. a slaloming run that ripped the Norwich Under-21 defence to shreds. Best of all, just count the nutmegs! There’s definitely three in there. Talk about threading the eye of a needle.

  • Hi Fozzie…… The only time I allow Cockie around my neck of the woods is at Halloween. He is so ugly he doesn’t need make up or any masks for that time of year.

    My neighbourhood watch have banned him from nearing these parts as he frightens the kids with that grotesque outer frame.

    He looks like Freddie Kruger, Frankenstein and Hannibal Lector all rolled into one.

    And he’s crap at football predictions as well. lol

  • Haha Vickers you have a point there about Haloween!! Gives Cockie the chance to impale himself on one of your Haloween Zimmers and pretend he’s Cockie Snuffiluffagus!!! 😆
    Off to gym now .. Catch you laterzzzz muverrezzz 😀

  • VCC – I’m not sure where these have come from, But I don’t fancy two of them, and the middle one is a non-runner – Dutiful Son
    Anis R is drawn close to the inside rail – Not good at Wlover.
    Billybo is in a 4 runner race – and conditional Jockeys to boot?

    Try this as an EW double + singles to win:
    2.15 Ffos L – Super Villan
    2.50 ffos L – Qinalas

    But I am a poor tipster over the jumps, so pennies only!

  • Geoff – Yes, winning by the odd goal would be next bes ton my thoughts?

    I still want to see the line up before I get that confident though?

  • New Post! 🙂

    We have two pre-match posts. A quickie by Marcus and a semi-biggie by OzG. 🙂

    Oz’s post will come out tonight or in the morning.

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