Arsenal FC: Power Ranking the Gunners Captains in the Premiership Era

Andrew JeromskiContributor IIIJune 2, 2011

Arsenal FC: Power Ranking the Gunners Captains in the Premiership Era

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    26 Dec 2000:  Tony Adams celebrates his goal for Arsenal during the FA Carling Premier League match against Leicester City played at Highbury in London. Arsenal won the game 6-1. \ Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt /Allsport
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    There have been many legends to wear the captain’s armband for Arsenal over the years, but the club has been especially blessed in that regard since the dawn of the Premiership era in 1992.

    Since that time, the club has enjoyed the greatest era in its long and storied history, collecting a total of 10 winner’s medals in the 19 seasons since the clubs in the Football League First Division severed ties with the venerable Football League—the world’s oldest football league, founded in 1888—in order to take advantage of a lucrative television deal.

    That, as history readily testifies, was a sound decision of the highest order, as the EPL is the world’s most watched football competition.

    Other sound decisions include most of Arsenal’s decisions as far as appointing captains is concerned.

    With Greats like Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry among their number, the Gunners Premiership-era captains would form one hell of a side were they ever to be so assembled, and it comes as little surprise that they captained the club to such heights.

    Here is my attempt to rank the great footballers who have worn the captain’s armband for Arsenal during the EPL era. This will be based upon length of captaincy, club results during that span, leadership qualities and individual statistics. It will not be perfect, but very little is.

Jens Lehmann

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    BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 10:  Jens Lehman of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackpool and Arsenal at Bloomfield Road on April 10, 2011 in Blackpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Lehmann ably manned the goal for the “Invincibles,” and for that alone he deserves plaudits.

    But his attributes as a captain fall well short of what is required of a Gunners field leader. This point is made best by the German’s sending off early in the first half of the 2006 Champions League Final in Paris.

Sebastien Squillaci

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Sebastien Squillaci #30 of Arsenal reacts after he is shown a straight red card by Referee Mark Clattenburg after his foul on Jack Hunt of Huddersfield during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON fourth round match between Arsenal a
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    The Frenchman played just a single match as a fill-in captain and hardly merits mention. He’s good in the air and seems to know what he’s doing in defense, but he hardly fits the mold of an Arsenal captain.

Eduardo Da Silva

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  Eduardo of Shakhtar Donetsk talks to Johan Djourou of Arsenal after the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Arsenal and FC Shakhtar Donetsk at the Emirates Stadium on October 19, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by L
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Although a dangerous forward prior to his devastating broken leg, sustained in 2008 against Birmingham City following a cowardly Martin Taylor challenge, the Brazilian-born Croatian international was always too quiet both on and off the pitch to ever mount a serious bid for permanent captaincy.

Manuel Almunia

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    WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - MARCH 19:  Manuel Almunia of Arsenal prior to the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on March 19, 2011 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    The Spaniard has looked more like a player who needs a few words from a captain rather than a player who should be one. His fragile temperament and shaky nerves pretty much precluded Almunia from ever logging too much time with the armband.

Gael Clichy

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Gael Clichy of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on May 1, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Clichy first captained the Gunners during the 2008-09 preseason against Barnet, and has worn the armband sporadically since that time. Known as an attack-minded left back with good pace and the ability to effectively organize the defense, Clichy has a tendency to get burned out of position every now and again.

Tomas Rosicky

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 08:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (L) duels for the ball against Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal at the Camp Nou stadium on March 8, 2011 in Barc
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Rosicky captained the Czech Republic while they were the second-ranked side in the world and filled the role in a reasonable fashion for the Gunners when called upon.

    Rosicky’s injury problems and lack of pitch time in the recent past have pretty much put an end to any chance of Rosicky wearing the armband again at the Emirates. In the unlikely event he stays beyond the summer, that is.

Robin Van Persie

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 22:  Robin Van Persie of Arsenal celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage on May 22, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    First captaining the Gunners in the 2009 FA Cup against Plymouth Argyle, the Dutchman has worn the armband here and there for Arsenal since then.

    A deadly striker with superb dribbling ability, van Persie is a captain very much in the leader by example mold. That being said, he has displayed a troubling propensity towards petulance at times, something unfitting of a captain.

Andrey Arshavin

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    BOLTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 24:  Andrey Arshavin of Arsenal  in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Arsenal at the Reebok Stadium on April 24, 2011 in Bolton, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The Russian international has captained Arsenal a number of times, but with speculation running rampant over a summer switch, it is likely he has seen his last match as a member of the Gunners.

    He displayed blistering form at times, but lately has seemed to be showing signs of slowing down.

Sol Campbell

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    STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MARCH 19:  Jermaine Pennant of Stoke City battles with Sol Campbell of Newcastle United during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Newcastle United at Britannia Stadium on March 19, 2011 in Stoke on Trent, En
    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Acquired on a controversial free transfer from bitter London rivals Tottenham, Campbell played an integral role in Arsenal’s defense during the middle of the previous decade.

    Having captained Tottenham, England and Plymouth—in addition to Arsenal—Campbell is a distinguished field leader. He perhaps suffers in this list because of the sheer volume of terrific captains Arsenal has ran out in the past.

Kolo Toure

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    PORTSMOUTH, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 26:  Kolo Toure of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Portsmouth and Arsenal at Fratton Park on December 26, 2007 in Portsmouth, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    The Ivorian was a much beloved figure during his tenure with Arsenal, and when he signed for Manchester City in 2009, it was a day of mixed emotion for Arsenal fans everywhere. He was a master organizer of the defense, and a spirited and passionate player.

    Toure was named vice-captain under William Gallas, but his public feud with Arsenal’s primary captain may have limited his time with the armband.

Dennis Bergkamp

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    LONDON - JULY 22:  Dennis Bergkamp of Arsenal runs with the ball during the Dennis Bergkamp testimonial match between Arsenal and Ajax at the Emirates Stadium on July 22, 2006 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Although perhaps the greatest Gunner of all, Bergkamp was never quite cut out for the role of captain. He clearly lacked the capacity to be a vocal leader, and his fear of flying in airplanes—earning him the moniker of “The Non-Flying Dutchman”—isn’t exactly captain-esque.

    His leadership by ability was unquestionable, but Bergkamp was never going to be a regular captain.

David Seaman

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    13 Dec 1998:  David Seaman of Arsenal in action during the FA Carling Premiership match against Aston Villa played at Villa Park in Birmingham, England.  The match finished in a 3-2 win for Aston Villa. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Making over 400 appearances for Arsenal, Seaman is clearly one of the greatest goalkeepers in club history. Manning the space between the sticks behind Dixon, Keown, Adams and Winterburn, Seaman formed the backbone of the the Gunners fortifications.

Ray Parlour

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    LONDON - 21 SEPTEMBER:  Ray Parlour of Arsenal on the ball during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers at Highbury in London on September 21, 2002. Arsenal won 2-1. (photo By Ben Radford/Getty Images)
    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    A strong fill-in captain, the crowning moment of Parlour’s matches wearing the armband was without question the 5-1 throttling of Inter Milan at the San Siro on November 25, 2003—it was the Italian giants worst loss in 47 years of European competition.

    Never a glamorous player, Parlour was known as a fan favorite.

Martin Keown

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    COVENTRY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16:  Martin Keown of Leicester City in action during the Coca-Cola Championship match between Coventry City and Leicester City at Highfield Road, on October 16, 2004 in Coventry, England.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
    Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    A tremendous center back, Keown was known for his tough tackling and wealth of tactical knowledge. One of the best one-on-one defenders of his generation, Keown filled in ably as captain when called upon.

Gilberto Silva

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    ATHENS, GREECE - OCTOBER 24:  Gilberto Silva of Panathinaikos FC in action during the Greek Super League match against AEK Athens at the Olympic Stadium on October 24, 2010 in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    Silva made his debut as Arsenal captain on October 18, 2005 after several seasons as part of the Gunners squad. The Brazilian received the armband even more following the  departure of Thierry Henry for Barcelona in 2007.

    Silva, who still plays with Brazilian club Gremio, is a versatile midfielder who was primarily utilized in a holding role by Arsene Wenger. He was a crucial member of “The Invincibles,” playing in 32 of 38 games that season.

William Gallas

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    LONDON - DECEMBER 28:  William Gallas of Arsenal runs with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Portsmouth at the Emirates Stadium on December 28, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    The tenure of the French defender as Arsenal’s captain was marked as much by controversy as it was by his stellar work at center back for the Gunners. That’s an unfortunate fact, as Gallas was a tremendous force during his time with Arsenal. 

    His captaincy was born in controversy, and that is the way it ended. 

    When Gallas was officially appointed captain on August 9, 2007, Arsene Wenger came under fire for the decision, as many people assumed that the armband would go to Gilberto Silva. 

    In November of 2008, following an interview with the Associated Press in which Gallas revealed details of the club’s internal dressing room squabbles and criticized Arsenal’s younger players, the Frenchman was permanently stripped of his captaincy, and the armband passed to Cesc Fabregas.

    Gallas moved to White Hart Lane in 2010, becoming the first player to appear for Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Cesc Fabregas

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal applauds the fans during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on April 20, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Fabregas is, of course, Arsenal’s current field leader, and has been since 2008. Shortly after gaining the coveted armband, however, he was sidelined for four months with a knee injury against Liverpool.

    The devastating creative midfielder would suffer a leg fracture in the Champions League semifinal first leg against Barcelona—before scoring the equalizer in what ended a 2-2 draw.

    Without question one of the finest players in the world, the Spaniard’s moments of brilliance have been somewhat tempered by the club’s lack of silverware, questions about whether Fabregas possesses the required makeup of a captain, and rampant speculation about a move back to Catalonia and Barcelona.

Thierry Henry

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    LONDON - NOVEMBER 21:  Julio Baptista of Arsenal celebrates with Thierry Henry of Arsenal (R) after Baptista scored during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between Arsenal and Hamburg SV at The Emirates Stadium on November 21, 2006 in London, Engla
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Henry not only Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer but also led the team in scoring for more consecutive seasons than anybody else. Henry’s run of seven seasons (1999-00 through 2005-06) edges Ian Wright’s six (1991-92 through 1996-97).

    The French legend and current Red Bull New York man became Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer while wearing the armband, and was simply a brilliant sight to behold in a Gunners jersey. Arsenal made the Champions League Final in 2006, but were defeated by Barcelona 2-1. Henry also scored a hat-trick in the final match at Highbury to secure fourth place for Arsenal.

    While his leadership by example was ... well ... exemplary, if there can be a criticism of his captaincy, it’s that he wasn’t quite the player he had been prior to donning the armband.

Patrick Vieira

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    LONDON - DECEMBER 04:  Robbie Savage of Birmingham City and Partick Vieira of Arsenal battle for the ball during the Barclays Premiership match between Arsenal and Birmingham City at Highbury on December 4, 2004 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Ge
    Phil Cole/Getty Images

     The French midfielder will always hold a special place in the hearts of Gunners fans simply because he captained “The Invincibles,” helping them to record their historic undefeated campaign in 2003-04. Vieira wore the armband as Arsenal went a record 49 matches without defeat.

    He was a hard tackling beast of a player with good technical ability on the ball and a knack for scoring goals. Vieira netted the winning goal against Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup final on a penalty. It would prove to be his final match for Arsenal.

Tony Adams

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    21 Jul 2001:  Tony Adams of Arsenal runs with the ball during the pre-season friendly match against Rushden & Diamonds played at Nene Park, in Irthlinborough, England. Arsenal won the match 2-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill /Allsport
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Wearing the armband for the Gunners for a remarkable 14 seasons, Adams truly epitomized everything that a captain should be. Ascending to the captaincy at the age of 21 in 1988, he skippered the Gunners to four league titles, three FA Cups and two League Cup wins. It’s little wonder that Adams is as revered a figure as any in club history.

    Along with Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon and Steve Bould, Adams formed the fabled “Famous Four,” and his organization of the defense played a vital role in the effectiveness of the unit.

    Adams played his entire 22-year career with Arsenal and was the greatest captain in club history, despite suffering through a public battle with alcoholism later in his career.