Arsenal are a team with no leaders is what has been heard time and again from whichever expert has decided it is his turn to pronounce judgement upon them. Despite this so called fact Wales decided to make Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey their international captain. He's only 20 years old, and he has just recovered from an horrific injury inflicted upon him by Stoke RFC's Ryan Shawcross. It's a great honour for such a young man, and I hope it will inspire him to return to the player he was before that injury.
He's not the only Arsenal player to captain his country though, as both Tomas Rosicky and Thomas Vermaelen have the same honour with their countries. It's interesting to think that all three of those countries consider Arsenal players to have enough leadership qualities to captain them, but Arsenal are seen as a team devoid of leaders. Added to the three of them, Samir Nasri was captain for the French national team yesterday, as they won 2-0 away to Luxembourg.
I suppose Ramsey, Vermaelen and Rosicky could all be said to have played little or no part in Arsenal's season so far, but Nasri has been one of the most impressive players in all of the Premier League. The big question for Arsenal though, is whether those players have shown leadership on the pitch for their club. It's hard to tell whether that is the case or not, but it certainly looks like Arsenal don't have a player on the pitch making the all important calls to the rest of the team.
Most teams at any level of football have a player who's job it is to make the calls for offside, and who tells the other players who they should mark at set pieces. Usually that job is undertaken by a central defender, or a central midfielder, but it appears to be more of a collective role at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger has said in the past that he has plenty of leaders on the pitch, but in my opinion he needs one man to take complete control.
I have no doubt of the love current captain, Cesc Fabregas, has for the club, and he is one of the best players in the world. His style of leadership is in the style of a player who leads by example, rather than shouting at the rest of the players. Vice captain Robin Van Persie has a similar style when he takes the armband, and it's hard to find a player in the mould of previous captains such as the great Tony Adams. At times it seems to me like Arsenal are a little too nice for their own good.
When do you ever see Arsenal defenders resorting to the tactics which Nemanja Vidic or Ricardo Carvalho use in every single game they play. They don't care how they win, as long as they win, and nine times out of ten they seem to get away with those tactics. It might be slightly unsightly at times, but it's very effective, and it has helped their clubs to win trophies.
It's not easy to point out any particular player who might be available this summer to fill that role. Even if a player who fills that role at another club was to be signed, it would be difficult for them to come in, and almost overrule the current captain. It is possible for a player to lead the team on the pitch without being the captain of course, and it's a role which comes naturally to some players.
If you go to any park on a Sunday afternoon you will see men(and women) of varying ages and skill levels doing their best to play the beautiful game. You will also hear at least one player on each team shouting out the orders to his team mates, and telling them where they have gone right and wrong. I played that role for many years myself, and I still find myself talking to all the other players in my five-side team non stop, when we are playing. If the role comes naturally to a player, there is little he can do to stop himself.
Maybe that part of the game is disappearing at the highest level, as players seem to become more pampered by the day. I still find myself going back to the incident at the Emirates last season when Arsenal were playing Everton. Denilson was running with the ball, and he suddenly stopped, and fell to the ground for no apparent reason. I know players are told to go down when they are hurt, but surely they should not collapse as if they have been taken out by a sniper. It removes them even further from the fans, who pay their hard earned money to see their club in action.
On that occasion Everton almost scored, as he lay there prostrate on the ground. He didn't miss too many games after that game, as he made a quick recovery from a seemingly serious injury. Compare his actions to those of other grown men who play the game for the love of it. I got a ball in the face on Wednesday night from a player who hits the ball harder than anyone I know. I'm more than a few years past my best, but after picking myself up off the ground almost immediately, I wiped the blood from my face, and got on with the game.
I'm not trying to make myself out as a hero of any sort at all, but if I can take it then surely a fit young athlete can take a knock or two without reacting to such an extreme. I played football again last night with no nail on my big toe, a swollen nose, and a burst lip, but I wouldn't have it any other way. When you love the game that's what you do, and sometimes I have to question the love of some professionals for football. It's easy for me to say that of course, but surely if players loved the game as much as true fans do, then they would give all they have in every single game.
In the modern era, players live a very privileged lifestyle, and maybe they need to connect a little with the fans to make them realise how lucky they are. They play football for a living, while the fans have to work hard all week to earn the money, to see them do just that. It's something I always wished I could do, but the closest I got was a little bit of representative football, and playing against Niall Quinn many years ago. I have always said I would buy a private box at the Emirates, and an apartment at Highbury, if I won the lotto, but I'll have to keep dreaming for the moment.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at how Tony Adams played.
See You Tomorrow.