This article was published in the Gooner Fanzine, which can be found outside The Emirates on matchday.
In any walk of life, no matter the capacity, a figure will emerge from the herd. This person, whether vocal or not, will be looked to when decisions are to be made. These figures, these leaders, are nominated by the rest of the pack for good reason.
When the rough seas broil and threaten to capsize the ship, then only the firmest hand should be on the tiller. When a difficult customer is haranguing, threatening and demanding action, then the Manager should be the most sage head in the building. When the rest of your team are pinned down by enemy paintballs and with no apparent means of escape, then it is the most proactive that gives hope.
All these qualities are necessary for a leader to warrant respect from their comrades. As a Gooner, we have had a recent past littered with token Skippers – those who have been chosen simply to lure these mercenaries away from the exit door. They wore the armband but subconsciously or not, their teammates knew of their impending departure. This in turn would lessen the impact any words that would be uttered by these want – away rogues. It was futile to give such an honour to a player who couldn’t give a jot for the club in the first place.
How could they effectively lead the team they care little for? Luckily enough, we have had an improvement in the armband stakes in the last few seasons. Not since Van Persie slithered his way to Manchester United have we had a captain who carries little to no weight when he spoke.
Since his acrimonious departure, we have had Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker. We have had sporadic skippers, such as Laurent Koscielny, but these players above have been the majority. The Belgian roamer may have left, but there can be no doubt that these players were a vast improvement on the previous incumbents.
Whilst Cesc Fabregas may have been vocal and led well, his limited experience would be a hindrance. William Gallas had the experience and he always brought the noise, but being slightly unhinged was his undoing. Whilst Thierry Henry would only demand the best from his teammates, his style of leadership wasn’t for everyone.
Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker both have excellent amounts of experience, they command respect from the dressing room to the pitch and they are vocal when the need arises. They both were the correct choice, but now time is running down on Mikel’s playing career, and Per Mertesacker – whilst he may have a few miles left in the tank – will more than likely be facing a battle for games next season.
So who should our Skipper be next season?
Every league campaign is vital, but with Chelsea getting a new man at the helm, City having the golden boy of Management in Guardiola, and United looking at alternatives to the controversial and dreary Van Gaal – next season will be tougher than it ever has been. A Skipper to keep the troops in line and all singing from the same hymn sheet is the order of the day.
Seeing as Koscielny has already had a taste for it, shouldn’t he be the natural choice? What about Coquelin, as he is a talisman in the centre and isn’t shy about coming forward?
No. The answer lies in goal.
Petr Cech is the natural successor and heir to the Captains Armband. Some will scoff at this and say that a true Captain cannot bark orders from goal, they cannot dictate in the manner that a true leader should. To this, I answer Peter Schmeichel and David Seaman. Both men could make themselves heard all the way to the opposite end of the pitch. The most important factor is that when they did shout, their teammates most definitely listened.
Petr Cech is already a spokesman of sorts. He has been the one who has offered the most succinct of soundbites when the chips were down this season. After drawing disappointingly against Southampton and losing ground in the title race, it was the giant Czech that came out to the media and gave Gooners hope.
His vast amount of experience can only be beneficial. He can organise from the back with aplomb after being coached by Jose Mourinho in the art of asphyxiation football. He can be who Arsenal needs in the dark times.
When the chips are down, you want a man who can pick up his men by the scruff of their neck and with a few choice words, have them ready to die for you in a moments notice. When Cech speaks, they all listen. When Cech speaks, WE all listen. His choice of words, despite it being his second language, is always sensible and well thought out.
If we were a goal up but facing Barcelona and had to keep them out through excellent organisation, then surely Cech would be the first choice?
The giant-handed, becapped Czech needs to be Arsenal’s skipper next season. He may have earned us upwards of ten points this season, but as Skipper – he could tip the scales in our favour. Already making a difference, but with everyone looking to Cech for inspiration, our goalkeeper could do a lot more than keep clean sheets.