arsenal captains

Rating all of Arsenal’s captains in the Premier League era

A couple of weeks ago, Arsenal boss Unai Emery announced that midfielder Granit Xhaka will be the club’s new permanent captain, replacing defender Laurent Koscielny who departed the club this summer to return to France.

The Switzerland international has often been a much-maligned figure during his three years in London, with the news of his appointment as the club’s new leader not going down particularly well among the Arsenal faithful.


Following Emery’s decision to hand the 27-year-old the armband on a permanent basis, we’ve decided to look back at each of Arsenal’s Premier League captains:

Tony Adams

One of Arsenal’s greatest ever players having spent the entirety of his almost two-decade-long career in North London, Adams was an inspirational leader behind a series of the club’s greatest triumphs.

With his leadership qualities evident from a young age, Adams was appointed as the club’s captain aged just 21, before going on to achieve the notable feat of being a title-winning captain in three separate decades.

Forming part of the club’s famed defensive line-up alongside, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn, he would captain the side to two league titles prior to the Premier League era, before leading Arsene Wenger’s side to league and FA Cup doubles in both 1998 and 2002.

He was also the captain as the club won their first – and so far only – European trophy with Cup Winner’s Cup success in 1994, with Adams the most successful captain in the club’s history, and was duly honoured with a statue outside the club’s Emirates stadium in 2011.

A proper captain.

Rating: 10/10

10 of the best quotes about Arsenal legend Tony Adams

Patrick Vieira

Succeeding Adams as the club’s new skipper was an unenviable task, but it was one that midfielder Patrick Vieira relished.

Having proven himself as one of the most inspirational players in the Premier League, Vieira was the face of Wenger’s side as they moved on from the previous era, and captained the Gunners during the most remarkable season in the club’s history.

Featuring alongside the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, Vieira would lead the club through a famed unbeaten season in 2003/04, the club being crowned champions of England once more and becoming the first side since Preston North End 115 years previous to achieve the feat without losing a single game.

The break-up of that ‘Invincibles’ side began with Vieira’s departure to Juventus in 2005, his final act as Arsenal skipper to score the winning penalty in a shootout success over Manchester United in the FA cup final.

Despite spending just three seasons as club captain, the Frenchman is remembered as one of Arsenal’s most iconic leaders.

Rating: 9/10

10 of the best quotes about Patrick Vieira

Thierry Henry

Widely regarded as the greatest player in the club’s history, Henry inherited the armband from compatriot Vieira following the midfielder’s departure for Serie A.

Having been the star turn during the club’s most recent successes, Henry’s time as captain coincided with the beginning of the club’s decline as they moved into their new Emirates stadium.

The club’s all-time record goalscorer was typically inspirational during his first season wearing the armband, however, winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot with 27 goals and being named as the Football Writer’s Footballer of the Year.

That season also saw Henry lead Arsenal to a first ever Champions League final, including scoring that goal against Real Madrid as Arsene Wenger’s side marched to the final.

Henry would miss out on being the first Arsenal captain to lift the European Cup though, as Barcelona came from behind to win in Paris after Jens Lehmann’s early red card.

With Arsenal’s on-field prospects deteriorating, Henry opted to leave the club in 2007. Whilst no silverware was lifted during his time as captain, he led a young side into their new era and his legacy as an all-time great is assured.

Rating: 8/10

William Gallas

Following on from the aforementioned trio, William Gallas’ time as Arsenal captain was, without doubt, a substantial downgrade.

The experienced defender was handed the captaincy following Henry’s move to Barcelona, though his reign is more memorable for the wrong reasons and he lasted less than 18 months in the role before being stripped of the armband following a series of controversies.

His tantrum and subsequent tears on the pitch following a draw with Birmingham in 2008 were laughable, before he was stripped of his role as captain later that year following an ill-advised interview.

Having revealed tensions within the dressing room and criticised the club’s younger players, Gallas was removed from his position by Arsene Wenger and replaced by Cesc Fabregas.

He remained at the club until 2010, before further damaging his popularity with a move arch-rivals Tottenham.

Rating: 1/10

Cesc Fabregas

Having been named as the PFA Young Player of the Season the previous year, Cesc Fabregas was regarded as Arsenal’s bright hope as they moved on from the ‘Invincibles’ era.

Handed the captaincy in place of William Gallas, the then 21-year-old was the heartbeat of a side containing fellow emerging prospects such as Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott.

Unable to inspire Arsenal to silverware, Fabregas played a key role as the club continued to secure Champions League football during a transitional period, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the tournament in 2008/09.

Like Henry before him, Arsenal’s inability to challenge for major honours saw him depart, however, returning to boyhood club Barcelona in search of silverware in 2011.

Rating: 6/10

Robin van Persie

Despite being captain for just a solitary season before his notorious departure to rivals Manchester United, Van Persie could hardly have done more to bring success to the club during his spell as captain.

The Dutch forward would plunder 37 goals in all competitions as Arsenal finished third, winning a host of individual accolades including the Premier League Golden Boot and a PFA Players’ Player and Football Writer’s Footballer of the Year double.

Arsenal’s decline from title challengers to top four contenders saw them lose several of their best talents during this period, with Van Persie the latest to opt out of the Emirates in search of the game’s biggest prizes.

He would move to Old Trafford after just one season as club captain, winning the Premier League title in his first season in Manchester.

Rating: 6/10

Thomas Vermaelen

The popular Belgian defender succeeded Van Persie as the club’s new captain, though the captaincy seemed to have an adverse effect on the centre-back as his performance levels dropped following his award of the armband.

Vermaelen had made an impressive impact at the club following his move from Ajax in 2009, being named in the PFA Team of the Year during his debut season.

However, injury problems also hampered much of Vermaelen’s time at the club, whilst he also lost his place in the side to Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny during his later years in North London.

He would win just one trophy as Arsenal captain, the 2014 FA Cup, though he was an unused substitute for the final victory over Hull City.

Rating: 2/10

Mikel Arteta

A fine servant during his five-year spell at the Emirates, the Spanish midfielder was appointed club captain in 2014, though in truth his career was winding down.

His reign as captain began impressively with a 3-0 victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield, though he would make just 11 further appearances during his debut season as skipper and missed the FA Cup final victory over Aston Villa at Wembley.

His second season as captain proved similarly disappointing, Arteta again featuring infrequently before announcing his retirement at the end of the season.

Rating: 2/10

Per Mertesacker

Like Arteta, another great club man who was perhaps awarded the armband for his service to the club, rather than his evident on-field leadership skills.

A model professional, the World Cup winning defender would captain Arsenal for the final two years of his career, before retiring and taking up a position as manager of the club’s academy system.

His two seasons as captain saw him make just seven league appearances as he struggled for fitness in the twilight of his career, though he started the 2017 FA Cup final as London rivals Chelsea were beaten 2-1 at Wembley.

A great character around the club, however, the highlights of Mertesacker’s Arsenal spell were before he inherited the captaincy.

Rating: 3/10

Laurent Koscielny

Another long-serving player who inherited the Arsenal captaincy, Koscielny’s legacy at Arsenal would perhaps have been assured had it not been for him engineering an exit away from the Emirates this summer.

The French defender had given the club nine years of dependable service, rewarded with the captain’s armband following Mertesacker’s 2018 retirement.

He would lead the club to last season’s Europa League final, ultimately ending in defeat to Chelsea, before surprisingly deciding he wanted out of the club this summer.

Desperate to return to his native France, Koscielny refused to join the club’s pre-season tour and went on strike. He eventually secured his desired return to Ligue 1 with Bordeaux, with his ill-advised unveiling – in which he removed an Arsenal shirt in favour of his new clubs – further tainting his reputation.

Rating: 2/10

Granit Xhaka

The latest incumbent of the club captaincy is the often much-derided Swiss midfielder, who has had his fair share of critics since his arrival at the club in 2016.

Many were surprised by the 27-year-old’s appointment as the club’s new leader, Xhaka having been jeered by sections of the Arsenal support in recent times, though it perhaps says more about the current predicament of Unai Emery’s squad.

The Spaniard insists that Xhaka is a respected figure and leader within the dressing room, something echoed by many inside sources from within the club.

That said, should the midfielder continue to deliver below-par performances as he has in the early weeks of the new campaign, there may be a swift change of leadership.

Rating: To be decided 

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