Granit Xhaka has had a nightmare start to his Arsenal captaincy, but he’s hardly the only Gunners skipper to struggle after being handed the armband.
While some past captains have struggled with injuries to the point they barely played, others have been responsible for much bigger faux pas both on and off the pitch.
We’ve looked back at some of the most egregious examples, and we fully expect there will be cause to update this list in the years to come.
7. Cesc Fàbregas: Never go back
Fàbregas replaced William Gallas as captain – more on him later – but it seemed a return to Barcelona was always a matter of when rather than if.
Now, all footballers make mistakes, but to do so against a team for whom you have affection – and who you will end up joining – is just bad optics.
Obviously Fàbregas didn’t mean to gift Barça a vital Champions League goal with a sloppy backheel, but that doesn’t make any of this more palatable.
6. Vieira refusing to leave the field
Arsenal’s Invincibles run could have easily been over before it began, and it would have all been the fault of captain Vieira.
During a game against Manchester United in September 2003, he kicked out at (well, towards) Ruud van Nistelrooy to earn a red card, and then decided to start on the United team instead of leaving the pitch.
Most remember the game for Van Nistelrooy’s late penalty miss, but it was Arsenal’s captain who left them with an uphill battle. That said, we bet there are plenty of Arsenal fans who wish they could still call on that kind of fighting spirit.
5. Koscielny rubs salt into the wound
It turns out you can anger your fans even when you’ve stopped playing for the club. Koscielny was a good servant for almost a decade, but it all ended horribly.
Believing there was a clause in his contract which allowed him to leave in the summer of 2019 (there wasn’t), Koscielny demanded the club released him on a free transfer anyway and then refused to travel to the United States for a pre-season tour.
When he eventually signed for Bordeaux, maybe he could have won fans round with a nice message about his time in London. He did this instead.
— FC Girondins de Bordeaux (@girondins) August 6, 2019
4. Gallas takes a seat
The 2007-08 season is the one which many Arsenal fans will point to as the one that got away. Arsène Wenger’s team were five points clear and on a four-match winning run when they surrendered a late lead against Birmingham City, but the reaction of their captain was just as notable as the result itself.
As James McFadden tucked away his equalising penalty, Gallas walked off to sit alone, nowhere near his team-mates. Not geeing them up or consoling them, just seemingly wiped out by it all. Hardly the example you want to see your captain setting.
Arsenal went on to win none of their next four games, losing their lead in the process. They would never get it back.
3. Gallas again
It wasn’t just the on-pitch moments which soured Gallas’ time at Arsenal – he gave us plenty more to work with.
“We are not brave enough in battle,” Gallas said in 2008. “I think we need to be soldiers. We have to be warriors.” Yes, this is the same William Gallas who walked away and sat down when his team conceded a late equaliser a few months earlier.
He was stripped of the captaincy shortly after.
2. Xhaka Can’t
Giving your own fans both barrels when you’re substituted at home isn’t the sort of behaviour you tend to associate with captains. Not captains who last a while in the role, at least.
If Xhaka had been in possession of the armband for more than a few months, there might have been some goodwill or understanding. However, this does not look likely to be the case.
Perhaps he’ll rediscover some of his best form after losing the captaincy. We’re not betting on it, though.
1. Van Persie’s inner child
If you’re going to leave a club for one of their rivals, just do it. There’s no need to make excuses which will only make you look worse.
Van Persie had captained Arsenal to a third-place finish in 2012, scoring 30 of the Gunners’ 74 league goals in the process. An exit would have hurt, sure, but with time running out for him to win a title, and with the Gunners 19 points adrift of champions Manchester City, it would have made sense on a purely personal level for him to have left in search of silverware.
Instead, though, he said: “I always listen to the little boy inside of me in these situations – when you have to make the harder decisions in life. What does he want? That boy was screaming for Man United.”
Sorry, Robin, no one’s buying that, least of all the Arsenal fans.