Arsenal Need a New Captain: Leno, Gabriel, Tierney, Bellerin, Rob, or?

A good team captain can make a big difference, or do they?

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I always felt that Wenger did not care too much who would be his team captain, especially after the eras of Adams and Vieira. Yet, Fabregas was one of my favourite captains, and I reckon he had/has all the qualities to be one of the best in this era too. Things have changed significantly since those macho Premier League days of Adams and Vieira. This generation of players have so much more power now and they are unlikely to be drawn to, and accepting of, dominant, fear-mongering managers. Communication, enthusing and persuasion are the key words now to get the best out of the players. It is a subtle art and the likes of Klopp, Guardiola, Nuno, Rodgers and also our maestro, Mikel, seem to be very good at it. The days of hairdryer-management seem well and truly over.

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But what about team captaincy? What makes a good captain? And is Auba a good one?

I think a great ‘modern’ captain needs to be good at the following:

  1. They need to be the on-pitch embodiment of the manager’s football philosophy and tactical instructions. So they need good tactical awareness and ability to communicate these on the pitch;
  2. They need to be extroverts who dare to speak up and lead by example. I am not talking about constant arm waving and shouting, but somebody with a natural talent to impose themselves on the pitch and get the respect of their fellow players (and often also of the oppositions’ players which can avoid things running out of hand at times);
  3. They also need to be able to influence the referee as in building a good rapport with them. This is about a subtle and natural ability to gain respect and the ear of the referee, which will help the captain with dealing with tricky moments and key decisions (a bit less so now with VAR). It also helps with pointing out such things as tactical fouling and possibly getting decisions going our way rather than the opponents’;
  4. Ideally, they need to play somewhere on the pitch where they have a good overview of the team structure and individual players;
  5. They need to have the respect and love of the fans and be excellent communicators (on and) off the pitch;
  6. They need to feel at home at Arsenal, ideally, and be there for the long haul;
  7. They need to speak a very good level of English, as they often need to make themselves clear in just a few second to the referee and/or his fellow players.
  8. They need of course to be a good footballer worthy of selection in the majority of Arsenal’s games.

If you look at the above it is hard to maintain that Auba is good captain material, and I believe that the captaincy is putting him on extra pressure which does not suit our deadly panther at all. If you ask me, Pierre needs to just concentrate on being at the right place at the right time to put the ball between the posts. It may well be time for Arteta to have a good talk with PEA and relieve him of the captaincy duties.

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So based on the above eight criteria – and by all means add more as you see fit and/or give more weight to some than others – who should be our captain? I have a couple of players for this in mind but have yet to decide, and just for a bit of fun and to kill some time before we start looking at the Barcodes’ game, it would be great to hear your choice and reasons.

By TotalArsenal.

55 thoughts on “Arsenal Need a New Captain: Leno, Gabriel, Tierney, Bellerin, Rob, or?

  • Hi,
    I think we need stability and taking the captaincy away from PEA would IMO be damaging to both him and the team.

    Long term we have a number of players who show leadership qualities, in particular Hector who has already worn the armband

    Oh and HNY to all on Bergkampesque

  • Hey BR
    Happy and Healthy New Year to you too, and really good to hear from you.

    A good challenge on taking away the leadership from Auba. Good shout for Hector too.
    I don’t think Auba would mind but if he would it may indeed be best not to do it right now.

  • In my mind, there’s really no other answer than Kieran Tierney. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is someone the fans identify with. He’s not extroverted by any means but he’s constantly barking orders when he’s on the pitch and holding others accountable. In interviews during our slump, he was not afraid to demand better from himself and the team and spoke honestly about where we were at.

    Bellerin will most likely not be here for the long-term and he’s so error prone that it would set a bad example for the rest of the team.

    However, I would agree that taking the armband away from PEA would be damaging at this point. Even though he has the armband, it’s clear that there are other leaders on the pitch without the formal recognition that have been pulling us out from the position we were in.

  • Good shout for Tierney, HH. Good argumentation too. Not my first choice due to his position in the team on the left flank, but I could change my mind. 😊

  • TA, if you’re talking about longevity and who will be here long-term, it has to be Tierney. Holding likely won’t be a starter next season, Gabriel will have the language barrier, Saka/ESR/Martinelli too young, Thomas has never really been a captain. Leno is relatively reserved and was never really seen as a leader dating back to his Leverkusen days.

    That’s essentially the future of our team there with lots of the other options in Lacazette, Xhaka, Luiz etc. likely gone by this summer if you believe what Ornstein and other reliable journalists are saying.

  • Good points, TA.
    I think Auba is too much of the ‘funny man’ to be an effective leader.
    In my opinion he was selected to wear the armband because this was the only way to give him a slight salary increase (the captaincy bonus) before he signed the new contract. But it is no longer a requirement.

    My 2 candidates are Tierney and Xhaka.
    It is funny that both of us identified 8 traits for an ideal captain, and about 6 of them are overlapping. My aspects from 14 months ago with my arguments for Granit.

  • HH, I wouldn’t put too much faith in what the Independent write, they like to give off an impression that they have a broadsheet ethos but underneath they’re just the Daily Star with a few posh words…

  • HH, Tierney has a lot going for him, but to me he is not central enough and I am not sure he would be Arteta’s embodiment on the pitch, especially from a tactical point of view. Yet he is one for the future.

    Partey has a lot going for him but it is too early to tell. XhakA has most of it but the fans don’t love him. I think Holding is a very strong candidate and would probably get my vote.

  • Interesting post Total and yes the job has changed for sure, but as in life some people are leaders and some people are camp followers.

    I think that Arsene made a huge error in devaluing the captaincy role and by trying to bribe star players with the armband, when he should have made sure their contracts were sorted out in good time instead.

    I was never really sure about Henry or RVP or even Cesc as captain, Sol Campbell would have made a good skipper, Koscielny was a good skipper and BFG, Keown was too wild, Arteta was just right.

    Emery made a right pigs ear of it, all that rubbish about 6 captains when it was clear that Xhaka was the leader of the dressing room, any half decent manager would have worked that out.

    Maybe a fit and firing Partey could be the successor to Aubameyang, maybe Bellerin, an intelligent and urbane young man, Tierney yes of course and I quite like the understated but resilient Holding but he’s not everyone’s favourite as a regular and your skipper has to be a 1st choice.

    I think we have to leave it as it is for now because Arteta has enough on his plate as it is…

  • Fine comment, Kev. Arteta was a good captain indeed and I agree that Arsene somewhat devalued the role. I think Holding has become a starter now.

  • It was interesting to read the others’ comments after I wrote mine Total, most of us picked the same players so that must say something even if it’s only that we’re watching the games properly.

    Well yeah TA, I also think that Rob is a regular now, he’s earned his spot in the team but I can understand why a few Gooners want to see Gabriel back in the team and also see Saliba as a long term solution. I watch the way that Rob interacts with his team mates and I think they respect him, he had a good partnership with Gabriel and now enjoys a good one with Mari. If he can stay fit then maybe Rob will get the armband.

  • Kev, it looks like Holding and Gab are first choice and Mari and Another are back up. Giving Rob the band would be great move but so would be giving it to Tierney. But only if Auba is in agreement as we don’t need the upheaval right now.

  • Big Raddy! A blast from the past. You should drop by more often with RA!

    This is a simple answer. A good manager like me takes Tierney into the office and says, listen Kieran… you are the real leader of the team and the perfect Captain. Just between you and me I’m making you co-captain (none of the 5 captains, revolving captains,etc nonsense).., the reason im saying co -captain is that Pierres confidence is low at the moment, and changing captains will be seen as a slap at him, AFTV will make a big deal, and the media would love it.
    I know you understand Kieran, and that’s exactly why you’re the perfect Captain in the first place.

    Speaking the language well helps a lot as was mentioned earlier, and it can even be explained as having an attacking leader and a defensive one. Not important in reality, it’s just something to say.

  • Kev, I’d almost forgotten about Unai’s six captains. What a farce that was.
    “Rob or Kieran” seems to be the actual question
    I’d go for rock-solid Rob, he’s the kind of hard-working lad who’ll never stop improving, I see him as our regular right CB for many years to come, and he’s “like a hurricane”, “there’s calm in his eye”, which is an essential quality for a captain imo
    On the other hand, I would like Kieran to remain a “free spirit”, which is why I’m not that keen on burdening him with the captaincy; I want him to be able to keep this touch of madness which inspired him his goal against WBA, and I’m afraid the armband might take some of it off him
    Lastly, there’s something about Kieran – what I’m about to write shouldn’t, in any way, be read as being aimed at the skipper of this great blog – but, well … should any variety of English spoken north of Hadrian’s Wall be regarded as :
    “ … a very good level of English, so as to make oneself clear in just a few second to the referee and/or his fellow players”???
    Just askin’ …

  • When Daniel Ballard made his international debut for Northern Ireland against Romania in September, there was only one man who was going to get his shirt.

    It was not one of the Romanian players or even a family member back home; it was Brian Stapleton – the scout who first spotted him and took him to Arsenal as a seven-year-old.

    A lot has happened since Stapleton first cast eyes on Ballard while he was playing for his local side in Stevenage, and there have been times when the defender thought he was not going to make it.

    So after making his international debut he wanted to ensure Stapleton knew how much he appreciated the part he had played in a young career that now only appears to be heading in one direction.

  • Brian’s been there since the start and has always helped me and my family with everything,” Ballard told Goal during an exclusive interview.

    “He’s someone I knew I could always turn to and he’d be there for me. He’s just a really genuine and good-hearted person.”

    The road Ballard has taken to get to the international stage has not been an easy one.

    Currently on loan at Blackpool in League One, the 21-year-old centre-back has his eyes fixed on returning to Arsenal and making his mark on the senior side in the coming years.

    Should that happen, it would cap a remarkable story for a player who was twice told he was being released by the Gunners, only for him to battle back on both occasions and continue his journey with the north London outfit.

    Ballard joined Arsenal after Stapleton spotted him playing for Fairlands Youth.

    “He actually went to watch a different tournament, but he didn’t find anyone so a load of parents ushered him over to where we were playing,” Ballard recalled.

    “I thought I had a terrible game. I got in the car and started crying my eyes out, but then my dad told me I was going for trials with Arsenal – I just thought he was trying to cheer me up.”

    Ballard spent six weeks on trial at Arsenal’s Hale End academy before signing, joining an age group which included current first-team star Reiss Nelson and Wales Under-21s international Robbie Burton, who left the Gunners last summer to join Dinamo Zagreb.

  • Initially, his progress through the academy was relatively smooth, but things started to become much more difficult as he entered his teenage years.

    “Technically and physically, I felt like I was getting left behind,” he admitted. “I always felt I was falling behind the standard.”

    It was at that point Ballard suffered his first major setback as a footballer, with Liam Brady – who was then in charge of Arsenal’s academy – telling him his time was up.

    “Liam took me in a meeting at U14s and told me he was giving me my release papers,” said Ballard. “I just burst out crying, it was like my whole world had come to an end.”

    But Ballard’s mood soon changed as he and Brady continued to chat about football.

    “We spoke for a while and after about half an hour he just changed his mind and never gave me the release papers,” said the defender.

    “He said I could stay and that there was new management coming in. He said take two years and try and impress them.”

    That new management team was led by Andries Jonker, who was appointed academy manager in 2014.

    Ballard stayed for those two years, but missed out on a scholarship and it looked once again like his time with the Gunners was over.

    He had a trial at Southampton and had four or five others lined up when a broken ankle threatened to put a halt to his attempts of ever making it in the professional game.

    Ballard even had to sign up to do his A-Levels at school because he was heading into a new season without a club, only for a remarkable turn of events to lead him back to Arsenal.

  • “I was halfway through a trial with Stevenage when I got a call from Jonker saying he needed a player to go with Arsenal to play Bayern Munich in a friendly,” said Ballard.

    “A lot of people were telling me not to go because Stevenage had offered me a scholarship. But my heart was set. As soon as Arsenal said that, there was no way I wasn’t going to go.

    “So I went and I played 45 minutes against Bayern. I had a really good game and on the plane journey home Andres offered me a two-year scholar’s contract. It was a pretty mental five or six months.”

    Ballard added: “As soon as I went back, although it was still really tough, everything seemed to go my way for once.

    “My body started to develop and I started to grow taller. I was still behind the curve, but I was starting to catch up.

    “And looking back on it now I think being behind the curve all the time was actually an advantage because I had to work a lot harder. If I hadn’t shown that hard work, I don’t think the coaches would have helped me out as much.”

    Ballard signed his first professional contract with Arsenal in 2018 and penned an extension less than a year later.

    He joined Swindon Town on loan in June 2019, only to suffer a serious knee injury that would see him return to Arsenal after just three appearances.

    The injury sidelined him for over six months, but Ballard returned to fitness not long after the arrival of Mikel Arteta, with the Spaniard often calling him up to train with the senior squad at London Colney.

    Ballard agreed to join Blackpool on loan for the first half of the 2020-21 season and has proven to be a big hit with the Seasiders, despite suffering from a hamstring injury which has limited him to just eight appearances in all competitions.

    That loan has now been extended until the end of the season, with the centre-back enjoying the hustle and bustle that comes with playing in League One.

  • “I think it’s important that you really experience what it’s like away from Arsenal,” he said. “I feel like a Blackpool player which I think it’s really important.

    “It’s been really tough and the amount of games is hard to deal with. There are no easy games. You could be playing bottom of the league, but the quality isn’t any different from playing mid-table or even top of the league because you have to be a very good, well rounded professional to play at this level.

    “There are no weak spots a lot of the time and everyone works their b*llocks off. It’s pretty relentless.”

    Ballard’s form with Blackpool this season has seen him rewarded with five caps for Northern Ireland, with wo of those games coming against Norway, and a certain Erling Haaland.

    The Borussia Dortmund striker came out on top in the game at Windsor Park, scoring twice in a 5-1 win, but he could not get the better of Ballard in the return fixture a week later, with a Stuart Dallas own goal all that separated the sides.

    “Haaland was pretty tough,” said the Arsenal centre-back. “He’s like 6’4, but he’s fast which is not a combination you usually see. So it’s pretty intimidating coming up against him.

    “He’s got that aggression, that hunger. He won’t let you have an easy game and it’s nice playing against players like that because they give you the best challenges and it gives you the motivation to go away and prove yourself

    “Obviously the first game he scored two goals, but I think in the away leg we did really well to stop him from doing anything really.”

    Those international appearances have given Ballard the taste for more. While he may have felt he was lagging behind for much of the early part of his Arsenal career, now he believes he has what it takes to succeed in north London.

  • He accepts he might have to spend another season out on loan once his time with Blackpool comes to an end, but his long-term ambition is clear.

    “I would love to represent Arsenal,” he said. “It’s always the goal.

    “I will keep focusing on myself and improving myself so that whenever they think the time is right, that I will be ready

    Charles Watts (

  • Ballard reminds me of Pat Rice, another Northern Irishman, who was almost released twice as an apprentice but just worked so hard the club kept him on and he ended up as Arsenal captain and 1st team coach…

  • A captain needs broad shoulders.

    I was at Old Trafford when Tony Adams somehow kicked the ball over his head into the top corner of Lukic’s net for an outrageous own goal. The Manc fans (never the nicest) gave him EE-AWW donkey brays for the rest of the game. The press went to town on him printing pictures of TA with donkey ears on his head. It became a thing around all the away grounds for a few years.

    Tony shrugged it off. He had already scored in that game and we went on to lift the league title that season (88/89) at Anfield. He was Arsenal captain for years and England captain too.

    He was a fantastic captain. More vocal than Vieira and equally tough and cynical when needed.

    I think Tierney embodies all of those aspects that TA had. Captain in waiting. Maybe a in a few years though, so PEA will not be embarrassed to be dumped.

  • Good managers are able to sell “bad” news as “good” news. We have often seen the form of outstanding cricketers drop when asked to captain England and then for their form to return when stripped of the captaincy. Arteta needs to put his arm around PEA and tell him that he’s senior man in the squad and he doesn’t need the title of captain to continue to be that. It’s also easier to be an effective captain when operating from defence or midfield as you have more visibility of what’s going on in front. By freeing PEA of the responsibility of what is going on behind him will allow him to do what he does best and operate more effectively as a striker. N.B. I would be happy with either Holding or Tierney but Rob gets my vote.

  • Ornstein reporting that Balogun is close to agreeing a pre-contract with a foreign club.

    Good luck to him but I’m massively disappointed that we couldn’t extend him.

  • However, Fabrizio Romano is reporting that Balogun still wants to stay and nothing has been decided yet. He needs to play if he’s going to be convinced to stay.

  • In the end the player has the last word but you’d be hard pushed to think that that is the case.

  • Kev, definitely worth a look. Thanks for taking the time to post the great articles too, it’s always great stuff…

    Le Gall,
    I love Holding also as a prospective captain. One worry is, I finally want a captain for long term, really long term, and also to be unquestioned starter in his position when healthy. If the Saliba thing works out for us, and he comes back next season as the great prospect, the uncomfortable captain situation begins all over again. Nobody is taking Kierans position, I feel confident saying.

    Also, I had KT chosen as great from the first games I saw him play for us, Captain entered my thoughts even then. Not because of being a spectacular performance though….. I kept thinking to myself, this guy does everything right.
    Every aspect of the game.
    His defending is strong and tireless. At first I saw almost every cross as high quality, but then I realized that his passing is excellent all around. Then there’s the obvious work rate. Also, such football intelligence! Another great captain quality.

    I’m pretty sure I was one of the first here to call him future Captain. You all know I can’t resist saying I told you so.

  • Great comments on the post. Cheers. It looks like there is a majority for Kieran and in second place comes Rob. We will have to wait and see what will happen in the future.

  • Jn, you’re right about long term – Saliba’s return … I didn’t take it into account because I really don’t understand what’s been going on with him so far. but from the (very) little I’ve seen of him, if he does come back to us after a full second half of the season in Ligue 1, he’ll be competition for Rob, that’s for sure, and the “regular” argument will indeed fall apart
    As for Kieran, how is it even possible to consider disagreeing with one of your arguments? The lad’s truly amazing; you have to feel for the season ticket holders, who are prevented from cheering him up, singing his song (what will this one be, btw?)

  • Many things that come out in the Guardian about Arsenal just enrage me, even more so when they are written by “NA” (Nick Ames), an Arsenal-bashing expert if ever there was one, but today …

    “3) Arteta can show Balogun he belongs at Arsenal
    You do not need to speak to many people who have worked with Folarin Balogun to be convinced the forward has a huge future. Arsenal’s problem is it may not be with them, despite Mikel Arteta’s best intentions. Arteta said pointedly on Thursday he was “not sure” whether Balogun’s agent is committed to tying the 19-year-old down to a new contract. Clubs all over Europe would love to sign him when his current deal expires this summer, with some in the process of conducting extensive diligence. Balogun’s camp might contend he is yet to start a game for Arsenal and no clear route to a regular spot has been outlined. First-team appearances must be earned, of course, but Balogun has shown in his substitute cameos – which have brought two Europa League goals – he possesses the all-round attributes to make it at the top. Although Arteta will not want to tinker too much against Newcastle, an outing for Balogun might help convince the striker and his entourage that he is loved. NA”

  • Back in the early 1990’s Arsenal had a rich vein of attacking talent in situ, Alan Smith at centre forward, a young Kevin Campbell who was equally effective at centre forward or as a support striker out wide and Paul Merson, a multi – talented forward who could play wide, up front or between the lines/ in the hole/ false 9 take your pick and Into this array of goalscoring talent manager George Graham added Ian Wright in 1991/92 and Arsenal (boring Arsenal!) scored 92 goals in all competitions.

    In the Arsenal reserve team a young Andy Cole was banging in the goals but saw no avenue for himself and after some heart to heart discussions with Graham the club decided to sell Andy and he joined Bristol City where he scored a lot of goals. After about a year Andy moved onto Newcastle and eventually ended up at Man Utd where he won many titles.

    Now in hindsight maybe Arsenal should have kept Andy but I doubt that he would have progressed at the same rate if he had stayed and maybe Balogun is thinking along similar lines?

    Of course money is a major factor but when you see Aubameyang, Lacazette, Martinelli and N’ketiah in front of you and another club is promising to make you their No.1 striker then you can’t help but think he’s right to leave and play elsewhere. Arteta can’t make him too many promises because things change and his agent won’t listen to BS anyway, so as awful as it seems we might just have to accept that the downside of having such a great academy is the fact that we’re gonna lose some good players along the way, just as is the case at La Masia.

  • Well said, Kev. And Arteta will also be thinking about Moller who has a different skillset to offer as it seems. Still there is hope to keep him and then loan him out till one of Auba or Laca move on, or indeed young Eddie doesn’t make the grade.

  • There are some situations, when the decision is not in the manager’s hand. That was the case with Szoboszlai (it was never a real option to sign him for 20M, there were always many stakeholders including but not limited to Dominik himself), and this is the case with Balogun.

    No doubt he is a great talent, and I would be thrilled if he would stay. But not on the expense of anybody else. Tha task at hand (keeping Folarin at the club) became real difficult when Auba signed. We already have 3 strikers in the first team – assuming both Martinelli and Pepe are most of all wingers – and we don’t need more at the moment; plus we have Nikolaj Möller (whom the fans also would prefer to see in the first team). The only way to keep Balogun is to loan either him or Nketiah for a year or 2, until Auba retires (or Laca leaves). But even in the long run it is enough to have 3 strikers; currently Auba, Laca and Nketiah do the job (mostly effectively) and later one of Auba/Laca and two from Eddie/Folarin/Nikolaj could be sufficient even without further investments to the center forward position.

    Nketiah is 21, Balogun is 19, Möller is 18. Even if we take nothing into consideration, but their age and willingness to stay that would be an argument against Flo. Nikolaj probably wouldn’t mind playing for the U23 team for 2 more years (until Edwards takes over), and Eddie is still better than Folarin in most aspects of the game. I still wish Balogun would stay, but if he needs guarantees to 1000+ first team minutes (which wouldn’t be unreasonable) I don’t think Arteta could or should grant that to him.

  • Exactly Total, Moller is a massive talent and so it John Jules, we also have a young kid in the U18’s by the name of Edwards and he’s a bit of a Balogun clone, in two years he’s gonna need an avenue into the senior squad. If Hale End can continue to grow it’s reputation then it can rival La Masia and attract the best youngsters whole see a pathway into senior football at Arsenal or at another top club.

  • Good point PB, maybe the club have gone as far as they can without blowing it all up and we end up with more young players expecting unrealistic wages and opportunities?

  • Very sensible arguments – as always – lads, but (sorry to insist, but I fear we might be about to make a serious mistake, here)
    First, Auba : I keep thinking it was unwise, to say the least, to grant him that mammoth extension, as it would have been for any 30+ CF, actually. I believe an honest, Arsène-inspired, £25k-a-week-pay-raise one-year extension proposal would have been enough. Should he have turned it down, it looked like he had suitors at the time (how many would he have today?), and we could have made quite a few bucks out of his sale, knowing we had Laca-Eddie-Martinelli … and Balogun in store. Lastly, I don’t regard him as the CF we need anyway, I’m convinced, on good days, he’s a lethal sniper when he comes in from the left, nothing less, but nothing more.
    Laca, then: I sure hope we won’t make the same mistake. I like him a lot, and defended him when he was accused of dragging the team down. I think he’s criminally underrated, and it is an understatement for me to say that I’m puzzled to see Deschamps pick the likes of Martial, Ben Yedder (??) ahead of him. Having said that, he’ll turn 30 in May, and so should be handed the very same above-mentioned extension proposal as Auba should have. Should he refuse, well he could choose to run down his contract, but the club should be very clear with him that he won’t be guaranteed the same playing time next year, with Eddie and … Folarin being favoured. It might make him consider the offers he’s bound to get at the end of this season, provided his form doesn’t decline (but as of today, I really don’t see why it would) … and the club could get good money, fro the sale of a prolific and intelligent striker, from some Italian/Spanish clubs.
    JohnJules, Möller: From the (little) I’ve seen of them, they are impressive lads indeed, but … I think it is about Tyreece that one day you wrote, Kev, that he appeared to you more as “a scorer of great goals, than as a great scorer of goals”, and mate, I think you were right in the bull’s eye. I think his future will take place right behind a striker, at The Arsenal or elsewhere, but I don’t think he’ll be the target man of any top-tier club (from the little I’ve seen, remember …)
    As for Möller, what we can catch sight of on Arsenal TV is heartwarming for any Arsenal fan, but … there is one detail which makes me hold my horses about him. Back in 2015, I was watching the Youth Cup game Arsenal-Bayern, which Arsenal won 2-0, with my son. Alex Iwobi scored both goals. Actually, it was right after this game, that Arsène promoted him to the first team. My son, who knows me well, told me after Alex’s second goal, that I must be overjoyed to see another lad about to come out of the ranks of the academy. But in fact I wasn’t, because I felt Alex’s performance that day owed too much to his physical strength, his power. It was obvious that Alex overpowered all of the other players on the pitch, and I told my son you can never be sure that the club/the lad himself will be able to build on that at top-level. Well, I think I wasn’t wrong, but that’s not my point, my point is when I see Nikolaj play (again, I saw very little of him …) I think exactly the same thing, he’s full of wonderful qualities (but aren’t all the lads who make it to a top-tier football club academy?), but I’m not sure he’ll be as impressive against opponents his size-his power.
    Folarin himself: I wrote a few things about him in one of my latest comments (I don’t remember what post that was), I’m not going to write them again – suffice it to say I think he’s better than Eddie (and I’m a big fan of Eddie’s); both of them should be kept imo, HH mentioned lately the necessity for a club like the Arsenal, to have backups in every position, I think there is no position where it is truer than in the CF position. Eddie-Folarin should be our future – and since you reminded us of Cole, Kev, I think the Nketiah-Balogun partnership could look very much like Cole-Yorke redux, when needed.
    That’s why … Folarin must “sign da ting”, and the sooner the better!!

  • This has been a very informative thread. Appreciate the depth of knowledge and insights.

    Unfortunately, my attention has been focused tightly on an incompetent coup by a fascist autocratic regime. One I’d called out here just over 4 years ago– to some folks dismay.

    So, in that same vein– but more appropriately regarding Arsenal, and specifically it’s ability to find an incredibly talented trove of young amateur players…

    Probably 4-5 years ago. I was explaining to our esteemed body at BK– the potential of the Arsenal’s ability to identify professional prospects at an earlier age than other clubs. Thanks to the use of statistically modeled video analysis that was deeper and more granular than any other system of its’ kind.

    StatDNA (bought by Arsenal Overseas Limited in 2012) has in fact helped to supply Arsenal’s Youth Academy with an amazing array of talent over the past 4-5 years. The fact that the club has seen fit to release the great majority of its scouting department underscores both the belief– and dare I say proof– that this system seems to be living up to the advance billing I’d been touting those years ago.

    Being thought of as heretical? Suppose that’s just part of the gig. 😎


  • I’ve been very busy this week so this is a tad late but here is something I put together a few years back – As far as I’m concerned he was the best defender and captain in Arsenal’s history.
    Tony played in 669 games over a 19 year period.

    Born in Romford, London, Tony grew up in Dagenham before signing for Arsenal as a schoolboy in 1980. He made his Arsenal first team debut in November 1983 just four weeks after his 17th birthday and became a regular player in the 1985–86 season, winning the Football League Cup Final, his first major trophy, in 1987.

    Alongside Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould, he was part of the “famous back four” that lined up in Arsenal’s defence – they became renowned for the use of their well-disciplined offside trap. On 1 January 1988, he became Arsenal captain at the age of 21 and remained as such until his retirement 14 years later.

    Their, strong and disciplined defence was a major a factor in Arsenal winning the League Cup in 1986–87 followed by two First Division championship titles; the first in 1988–89 and the second in 1990–91 after losing only one game all season. In 1992–93 he became captain of the first English side to win the League Cup and FA Cup double, and he lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following year.

    All along Tony had a ghost in his closet, namely his battle with alcoholism, which started in the mid-1980s and became increasingly worse; reportedly he was often being involved in fights in nightclubs. On 6 May 1990, he crashed his car and when breathalysed his blood alcohol level was found to be more than four times the legal drink-drive limit, in December of that year, he was found guilty and he was imprisoned for four months. Unfortunately his alcoholism continued and he was involved in further alcohol-related incidents. In September of 1996, he went public admitting that he was an alcoholic and was receiving treatment. Since his recovery he has become one of the most high-profile recovering alcoholics in the UK and his battle with alcohol is detailed in his autobiography, “Addicted”.

    The arrival of Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager in October 1996 was also played a significant part in his recovery as Wenger reformed the club’s dietary practices and the players’ lifestyles. Wenger showed his faith in Tony by sticking by him and keeping him as the club’s captain, the improvements in the regime probably helped to extend his career by several years. Arsene’s trust was rewarded with Tony captaining the club to two Premiership and FA Cup Doubles, in 1997–98 and 2001–02 – he is the only player in English football history to have captained a title-winning team in three different decades.
    In August 2002, just before the start of the 2002–03 season, he announced his retirement from professional football after a career spanning almost 20 years in which he played 668 matches for Arsenal making him second on the all time appearance list, he is also the most successful captain in the club’s history.

    He made his debut for England against Spain in 1987, and played in Euro 88, scoring one of England’s two goals. He was the first player to represent England who had been born after the 1966 World Cup win. In total he appeared 66 times for England.

    Nicknamed “Mr Arsenal”, he was honoured by Arsenal with a testimonial game against Celtic in May 2002 with many Arsenal legends playing, including Ian Wright, John Lukic and Adams’s fellow back four stalwarts, Dixon, Winterburn and Bould. The game finished 1–1 with Lee Dixon, in his final appearance for the Gunners, getting their goal.

    In 2004, Tony was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact on the English game. A statue of Adams was placed outside Emirates Stadium in celebration of the club’s 125th anniversary on 9 December, 2011. He has also been honoured with the MBE for his contribution to football.

  • I said this a couple weeks back…..,The only slim hope I see for keeping Balogun, which everyone seems to think is the preference, is the club making a sophisticated move involving Eddie, Balogun and their mutual agent.

    Sell Eddie to a lower team… rumours are Brighton, Wolves interested, with big needs. He’d be immediate starter. He has 15-25 mil value in my mind because of his great record in under 23 England and Arsenal. He is a known talent. Plus we could look for a sell on fee, add ons for appearances, etc.
    That could clear the way for Balogun, including a raise from the Eddie move, especially if we make a decision either way on Lacazettes future. Do we ever make decisions before the last moment though?

    Seems like it’s too late now, but it does make sense. How do we keep letting these situations of contracts running to the very end happen to us.? A concrete decision needs to be made a full year earlier when the player doesn’t hold all the cards.

  • Cheers LeG, you have explained yourself v well. It just shows how hard it is to make the right decisions. If Auba had banged in 14 PL goals by now I doubt you would have written that about him…? Sometimes a club needs to make a statement as to attract other players and make youth academy players sign for the club too. I think that is why we kept Auba and there is every chance he will start delivering again sooner or later. Re your views of the young players, I still feel that we are too far away to judge and Arteta and Mertesacker are the best judges. That does not mean they cannot get it wrong, but I prefer not to have a strong view on young players’ ability to make it at Arsenal.

  • Cheers JW, fully agreed re the ugly and deadly attack on democracy in Washington. A very sad and worrying event and it could have ended even worse. We will not be coming to the USA for quite a few more years.

    Yes you did make yourself strong for StatDNA and credit to you for it.

  • Thanks, J. Again I feel it is up to Arteta to make the call. Eddie could be close to breaking through properly and he is definitely ahead in terms of maturity. Yet I can see the way you are thinking and it may well be the right way forward. It would not surprise me if we sell Laca actually, either this January or in the summer, and if so, Arteta will want to keep hold of Eddie for now.

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