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Looming captaincy problem reveals growing leadership

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang potentially on the way out, Arsenal have a looming captaincy problem to solve. But the issue does illustrate the growing leadership the team has in its young players.

The Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang transfer rumours continue to swirl around and, if Aubameyang does move on in the next transfer window, the Arsenal captaincy will again become vacant.

As an ex-Arsenal captain, head coach Mikel Arteta will have the responsibility of picking the new man for the job and he will understand better than most just what the role demands of the individual and the character that is required to handle it.

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The Arsenal captaincy has lost meaning over the years. From Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie to leaving as captain to the deplorable behaviour of Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka, the role no carries the same reverence and significance as previous years. It also says a lot that the armband has been shuttled between the squad with painful regularity. Consider the recent mess to the greats. Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and Frank McLintock

As such, the next club captain should be someone who has true leadership qualities, someone who can be the voice on the pitch, the leader in the dressing room, someone who plays with passion and is not afraid to criticise those who deserve it.

Several players could fulfil this role. Hector Bellerin may be a different type of character, but he certainly carries himself superbly on and off the pitch and is extremely well-regarded in the dressing room.  He is the club’s Professional Footballers’ Association representative and is said to have played a key role in the players’ recent decision to cut their wages by 12.5% amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Similarly, Kieran Tierney offers a more hardened but equally effective edge.  Making him club captain at this stage of his Arsenal career would certainly come out of left-field given his injury problems this season, but he has routinely displayed the character to be a true leader. At the age of 22, he has incredible maturity on and off the pitch, has already built up a rapport with the fans, and was made Celtic’s captain in 2017 at the age of 20, as well as captaining the Scottish national team.

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One moment that illustrated Tierney’s leadership qualities came after the League Cup defeat to Liverpool in October. Dani Ceballos and Matteo Guendouzi were both set to walk straight off the pitch until Tierney called them both back and made them go over to the Arsenal fans and clap. He is not afraid to say his piece to his teammates and he respects the supporters. It would be a shock, but few in the squad carry themselves in the manner that Tierney does.

Matteo Guendouzi is also another left-field option. There is a lot to debate on whether he should and would be up for the role given his age and the fact he seemingly lacks the maturity to accept such a responsibility at a big club, but there is no one who plays with such passion and desire as the Frenchman. He can grab the game by the scruff of the neck when Arsenal are up against it. He is not afraid to speak up against more senior teammates if he feels they are not performing and he is loved by the supporters for his enraged moments, his winding up of the opposition, his outpourings of emotion.

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Is he too young, inexperienced and raw to take on the role? Yes, most likely. And Bellerin is the most obvious — and correct — candidate to succeed Aubameyang. But Arsenal now have characters who are willing to take on roles of leadership in the squad, and that is not something that can always have been said.

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