Why Arsenal Should Make Laurent Koscielny Captain on a Permanent Basis

Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2016

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07:  Joshua King of Bournemouth tussles with Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Arsenal at the Vitality Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

On January 24 this year, before Arsenal took to the Emirates Stadium pitch for a crucial Premier League clash with Chelsea following draws at Liverpool and Stoke City, something strange happened.

Per Mertesacker handed the captain’s armband over to Theo Walcott, a player who hadn’t been guaranteed to start the game but was celebrating 10 years at the Gunners that week.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24:  Theo Walcott of Arsenal runs with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on January 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It was hardly the most contemptible thing to happen in football history, but the subsequent events of the game just made it seem very… well, very Arsenal.

Admittedly too much emphasis can be put on the role of the captain in the modern game, but it is something that fans care about. They want to see their leader as their representative on the pitch, and the player who will do everything required to win.

As you’ll recall, 18 minutes into the Chelsea game, Mertesacker was sent off for tripping Diego Costa as he raced through on goal. Under an hour’s worth of play later, Walcott headed in the same direction to be replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. This wasn’t an anniversary to savour.

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Per Mertesacker of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Of course, Mertesacker isn’t the Arsenal club captain as that honour belongs to Mikel Arteta, but with the Spaniard very rarely seen, the armband is usually hoisted around the long arms of the gangly German. Then when he’s not there, it tends to go to Santi Cazorla.

None of them were on the pitch at Bournemouth on Sunday though, and so a new Arsenal Premier League skipper was needed, and the honour clearly meant a lot to him.

Laurent Koscielny told France Football, via the Mirror:

It’s more pride. It was the first time in the league. 

I’d already had the armband in the Cup against Sunderland and then Burnley, but this honour doesn’t add more pressure.

I believe every player has an important role to play in a team and he needs to fulfil it.

However, this armband will remain something important in my career. Legends like Tony Adams or Thierry Henry wore it before me. That’s not nothing!

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal reacts during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Arsenal and Burnley at Emirates Stadium on January 30, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

It’s not indeed, and you can argue that Koscielny embodies something of those two Gunners legends when it comes to the modern-day team—and not just because he wears the No. 6 and is French.

The centre-back is clearly much loved among Gunners supporters, as you only have to look at the number of Twitter accounts devoted to him to see that. But more importantly, the 30-year-old is one of the constants of this latter part of Arsene Wenger’s reign.

Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger (L) and Arsenal's French defender Laurent Koscielny look out from an open top bus during the Arsenal victory parade in London on May 31, 2015, following their win in the English FA Cup final football match on May 30,
LEON NEAL/Getty Images

With Mertesacker now becoming less and less certain of his place due to the decline in his abilities and the impressive competition provided by the Brazilian Gabriel, the Frenchman has become the de facto leader at the back, just like Adams was in his day.

When he’s at his best, Koscielny is one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, and also across Europe, and although he is still capable of the odd shocker—with Southampton away over Christmas immediately springing to mind—you wouldn’t find many Gunners fans who’d swap him for anyone else.

Like Henry, Patrick Vieira and others before him—and Olivier Giroud after—Koscielny is a player who has been made by Wenger’s influence. The Gunners boss took a chance on him when he plucked him from Lorient in 2010, and although there have been ups and downs, he has been greatly rewarded,

There are other Arsenal captaincy candidates, of course.

Petr Cech has led Chelsea and the Czech Republic in the past, Aaron Ramsey was the captain of Wales at a very young age and is becoming a Gunners stalwart, Jack Wilshere would be a great candidate if he wasn’t so well-acquainted with the treatment room, and then there’s Mertesacker and Cazorla.

But if, as expected, Arteta is to be released when his contract expires in the summer, then surely Koscielny would be a popular choice to become the club’s skipper in his absence?

He’d have a few more votes than Walcott, put it that way.