The choice of destination for the captains armband may have been derided by some fans, but Per Mertesacker will give his all to the club in his new role – whether it is on or off the pitch.
Towering defender Mertesacker had rivals for the honour of leading the club, but it is he who will lead the troops, and ensure that all the players have an appropriate role model and motivator for the season.
There is a slight problem in that the German is not due to take to the pitch in a playing capacity for some time. This means that the armband will go to the next suitable candidate. Arsene Wenger commented on this very issue, and intimated that experience counts when wearing the inconspicuous strap of material –“I think it is absolutely natural to be him. [In his absence] that’s where it will be taken by the assistants. One of them will be Koscielny, also Cazorla – the experienced players.” ( quote from HITC Sport ).
So, it seems that experience is the key asset that Wenger values when choosing a captain – and Mertesacker has that in abundance.
The player we fans know as ‘The BFG’ is a World Cup winner, and has been at the club since 2011. On the day he signed, which resembled a mad-dash round the transfer aisles on the last day of the transfer window, most had heard of his name, but few would have guessed at the impact he would go on to make.
Largely consigned to ‘average’ territory thanks to a severe lack of pace, Mertesacker’s other strengths more than make up for his glacier-like running speed. His positioning, hewn from years of playing at the top level, and his astute awareness of the attacking instincts of his opponent mean not only can he hold his own – but that he has so much to offer our younger generation.
The latter point above is key. With Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Krystian Bielik very much pushing through and intent on forming our defence for years to come, Mertesacker’s knowledge if passed down would give these promising talents an advantage.
With Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny as back-up skippers, the voice that booms loudest on the pitch may not be heard, but a true leader will grab his men by the scruff of the neck whether he is wearing the armband or not. Per Mertesacker is the clubs fine collector, he commands respect. More importantly than that, he adores the club – and he will not sit idly by if players are not pulling their weight.
Jack Wilshere – himself a potential future captain – also commented on the awarding of the captaincy to the World Cup winner –
It is good news for us. For me anyway, over the last few seasons he has been like a captain,” Wilshere told Arsenal Player.
“He is organised, and he won’t take any nonsense from anyone. If someone is late or on their phone, he is on to them – it doesn’t matter who you are. He is the one who organises our team dinners so for me he is a great choice
He is a natural leader and I know he has picked up a injury, but he can still bring so much to us as a team. I’m sure if you ask the other boys, they will say he would be an obvious choice for captain. We are happy. (Quote from Evening Standard).
So, the players are behind the choice, and Mertesacker will be delighted. He may not have a presence on the pitch, but there will be no doubt that a certain standard will be expected. Woe betide anyone who slips below that, if Wilshere’s comments are anything to go by!
Any captain at Arsenal has an uphill battle. With a former captain being cast in bronze outside the stadium, there will always be comparisons. Tony Adams was perhaps born to lead, and we may not ever see the likes of him again.
All we can ask for is that our new skipper will do the distinction justice. We should have no doubt that he will.