Arsenal FC is a proud club with a wonderful tradition of captains. If you examine the club's history you would see it has been captained by men of great stature and footballing ability, players such as Frank Mclintock, Tony Adams, and Patrick Vieira provide fitting examples of wonderful Arsenal captains of the past.
These were men who inspired their teams through thick and thin and became figureheads not just for their teammates but for the club as a whole. These were also captains of some of Arsenal’s most successful teams, and perhaps this illustrates the importance of the captaincy to any team, a great captain often leads a great team.
It is interesting to note the importance and the qualities which former Arsenal captains have had, with regard to the current incumbent William Gallas. A man who has split opinion over both his captaincy and his own personal attitude, and as such, bearing in mind the lack of whole-hearted support for Gallas and the importance which the role of captain can have to any team, surely the question must be asked is William Gallas the right man to lead Arsenal?
As the old adage (which will forever haunt Alan Hansen) goes, “You can’t win anything with kids." Certainly this Arsenal team is one of immense promise, you only have to see their performance in demolishing Sheffield United to see the potential.
Yet potential alone can only take you so far and often an experienced head is needed in order to guide and aid the development of young players especially in a league as hard as the Premiership.
Gallas certainly fulfils that role of an experienced head, people often forget that this is a player who has been capped 68 times by France and has won two Premiership titles and the Carling Cup with Chelsea. Certainly when it comes to experience there are none more experienced in this Arsenal team.
On top of this, there are his admirable qualities as a player, there are few better defenders around the world and he certainly has the quality of play and reputation to lead by example and is an integral part of Wenger’s team.
Gallas himself seems to revel in being the leader of the team, this season alone he has scored crucial goals against FC Twente and Dynamo Kiev and often leads the team from the back by bringing the ball out of defence.
In a team packed with inexperience, Gallas is a vital cog and an experienced player who has been there and done it and can help use that experience to aid the younger players of the team, and so he should well be Arsenal captain for the foreseeable future.
One image will forever remain etched on the collective consciousness of Arsenal fans as to explain the moment when the title slipped from their grasp.
That was William Gallas breaking down and weeping on the pitch after a draw away at Birmingham. As emotional a match as that was, with Eduardo’s injury and Gael Clichy’s inexplicable error which gifted Birmingham the penalty by which they equalised, what followed was inexcusable.
His two minute sulk, a petulant protest over bad luck and human error was a demoralising image both for fans and players alike. They were hardly actions befitting an inspired leader (could you imagine Vieira or Keane crying?) and it left both his image and that of the club open to ridicule.
Whether Arsenal fans or his fellow professionals have forgiven him properly remains open to debate, and the incident certainly raised question marks over his temperament and ability to lead the team. His teammates have brushed aside questions over his leadership yet surely some doubt must remain-when the going gets tough will Willy get going?
There is no doubting Gallas’s qualities as a player, but as a leader of men and captain of a team he has yet to cover himself in glory and for Arsenal fans the fear must be that Gallas’s captaincy could well turn into the same stagnated period of egotistical self-gratification that Thierry Henry’s did.
There was no doubting his love for the club, but Henry’s captaincy was full of gallic shrugs and berating of his fellow teammates, the armband merely seemed to him to be a public display of his own brilliance which allowed him to question the qualities of his team-mates because he was so good hence why he was captain.
Arsenal fans must fear that those days could return if Gallas remains captain, a man obsessed with himself and his own success before that of the team, and the team dynamic will as it did under Henry inevitably suffer.
Yet if Gallas is not the right man to lead the team then who should?
Perhaps it is Kolo Toure, the terrace hero and longest serving member of the team? Or maybe Cesc Fabregas? Buoyant from Spain’s Euro 2008 campaign, a huge favourite with the fans, and the very heartbeat of the team's play, perhaps he should lead the team on, perhaps to greater things.
So what do you think? Is Gallas the right man? Or will it require some other captain to take charge before Arsenal are to be ultimately victorious once again?