Ranking every Arsenal captain of the Premier League era from worst to best

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Arsenal have been graced with a host of iconic captains over the past 20 years – but they have also had plenty of unsuccessful leaders.

Granit Xhaka has become the latest player to captain the club, and he’ll follow in the footsteps of Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and many more.

Here are the 11 permanent Arsenal captains from the Premier League era, ranked by how well they fared with the armband.

11. William Gallas

Most Arsenal fans were shocked and disappointed when Gallas was given the armband in 2007, and the defender didn’t a lot to prove people wrong.

The lasting memory from his spell as captain was when he sat down on the pitch and threw a strop after a 2-2 draw with Birmingham in 2008.

After he publicly criticised his own teammates later that year, Arsene Wenger finally had enough and stripped him of the captaincy.

10. Granit Xhaka

Xhaka was a surprise appointment as Arsenal captain because fans have often been critical of his performances for the club.

However, the Swiss international won a players’ vote to become skipper, and he has clearly always seen himself as a natural leader…

“When I was younger, even though I had a big brother, my parents would give me the house key every day,” Xhaka said.

9. Laurent Koscielny

After eight years at the Emirates, Koscielny was finally appointed as permanent Arsenal captain in 2018 by Unai Emery.

The defender missed the first half of last season through an ankle injury and only made 17 Premier League appearances in 2018-19, but captained the club to the Europa League final.

Koscielny then rejected a new Arsenal contract and refused to travel on their pre-season tour to the United States before forcing through a move to Bordeaux. Not exactly fitting behaviour for a captain.

8. Robin Van Persie

Van Persie took the armband after Fabregas left for Barcelona, and he carried the Gunners to third in the Premier League with 30 goals in 38 league games during 2011-12.

However, at the end of the season he announced that he was refusing to sign a new contract and ruined his legacy by signing for bitter rivals Manchester United.

We’re starting to notice a trend here.

7. Thomas Vermaelen

Vermaelen was a talented centre-back and a natural leader, but he struggled with injuries during a significant part of his time as Arsenal captain.

Even when fit, the Belgian was behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the pecking order, so he found himself out of the team and club captain from the bench.

He reportedly agreed to join Manchester United before signing for Barcelona in 2014, where he continued to miss games through injury problems.

6. Per Mertesacker

Despite being sidelined for most of the 2016/17 season with a knee injury, Mertesacker was named as Arsenal captain following Arteta’s retirement.

“Wenger knew how long I was out but he told me that he still saw me as a big figure for the club and that I was his first choice. I couldn’t believe it. It was huge for me,” said Mertesacker to the Daily Telegraph.

“I was really buzzing as it came at the time I didn’t think it was going to happen. You want to be on the pitch, giving advice, making the difference, but sometimes that is not the role and you have to let it go.”

The defender made his first start of the season against Chelsea as Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2017, and he retired a year later.

READ: A forensic analysis of Per Mertesacker’s display in the 2017 FA Cup final

5. Mikel Arteta

When Arteta was given the armband in 2014, his playing days were coming to an end, and he was no longer a first team regular for Arsenal.

However, he was a born leader, and he had a great influence on the dressing room as Arsenal lifted two FA Cups under his captaincy.

It’s no surprise that Arteta is now assistant manager under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

4. Cesc Fabregas

At just 21-years-old, Fabregas became Arsenal’s second youngest ever captain in 2008, as he had displayed an old head on young shoulders.

The talismanic midfielder was already Arsenal’s most consistent performer and the responsibility helped him become one of the best players in the Premier League, but he was constantly linked with a move back to Spain.

Fabregas eventually signed for Barcelona in 2011 but his decision to join Chelsea in 2014 soured his relationship with some Arsenal supporters.

3. Thierry Henry

By 2005, Henry was already an Arsenal legend, but he took on the armband following Vieira’s departure.

The striker was one of one of the most experienced players in the team, and he captained his side to their first Champions League final in 2006.

Henry became Arsenal’s all time leading goalscorer while wearing the armband, but he left the club and signed for Barcelona in 2007.

2. Patrick Vieira

When Patrick Viera took over as captain from the legendary Tony Adams, he had huge boots to fill, but he was the natural replacement.

The Frenchman was one of the best midfielders in the world and a general in Arsenal’s midfield, and he had already shown brilliant leadership qualities.

Vieira then captained the club during their Invincibles campaign of 2003/04 and scored the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final win over Manchester United.

1. Tony Adams

Adams was given the armband at just 21 in 1988, and he remained as Arsenal captain until his retirement 2002.

The defender oversaw an incredibly successful period and captained the Gunners to two First Division titles, two Premier League trophies, three FA Cup triumphs, two League Cups and one European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Adams led by example on the pitch and epitomised everything that a captain should be, so he is undoubtedly the greatest leader in the club’s history.


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A forensic analysis of Per Mertesacker’s display in the 2017 FA Cup final