Granit Xhaka and the Curious Case of the Arsenal Captaincy

Granit Xhaka will be the world’s most talked about footballer this week following Arsenal’s 2 – 2 draw with Crystal Palace.

Having surrendered a 2 – 0 lead, Arsenal were chasing the game at the Emirates on Sunday. Captain Granit Xhaka was substituted around the hour mark, and drew ire from the crowd.

As he took his time walking off the pitch, the crowd turned further, and Granit Xhaka hit back. He was seen telling the fans to ‘f*** off’, and cupping his ear in an antagonising way. 

Xhaka was an unpopular choice for captain with the fans before this. After that incident, it’s hard to see how he continues as club captain. We await a statement from Arsenal, but Xhaka looks like he will become the latest player whose Gunners career was killed by the captains armband. 


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Perhaps the most hysterical fanbase in football, Arsenal fans are only ever one incident away from outright toxicity. Among the many things that irks them beyond reason is the topic of the club captaincy. 

Unable to live in the present, each new Arsenal captain is held up against the likes of Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira by the supporters.

Their long wait for an inspirational figurehead continues, and if recent years are anything to go by, won’t end anytime soon. While it’s easy to criticize Xhaka, a look through recent history tells us that the Arsenal captaincy destroys players both physically and mentally.

The phenomenon can be traced all the way back to William Gallas, who was surprisingly named captain in 2007. It didn’t take long for it to get to him, as he infamously threw a tantrum and cried on the center circle after a 2 – 2 draw with Birmingham in 2008. He was eventually stripped of the captaincy later that year after publicly criticising his teammates. 

The next phase of Arsenal captains featured the wonderkids. However, both Cesc Fabregas, and Robin van Persie who followed him, left the club to win trophies a year after being named skipper. 


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Enter the age of the absentee Arsenal captain. Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were the next four Arsenal captains. All four of them were good leaders. However, all four of them spent their first year as captain sidelined with injury, prolonging the myth of the captaincy in the minds of Arsenal fans.

Laurent Koscielny did rather impressively return to his best form, and lead the team as captain following his ruptured Achilles injury. However, he left the club under a cloud last summer after falling out with the club’s new executive team.

If Granit Xhaka has anything going for him, it’s the fact that he actually is a leader. The fact that he’s been named captain of every team he’s played for speaks to that. Anybody who’s worked with him speaks in glowing terms about the Swiss international. 

However, with his reaction on Sunday and the fact that his place as a starter was already under question, it doesn’t look good. He will either be taken out of the team or stripped of the captaincy, or both and thus, the curse of the Arsenal captaincy continues.