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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.