Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said he wants "stability" from his captain amid continued speculation regarding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future.
The striker was named as skipper by former manager Unai Emery earlier in the campaign, with previous incumbent Granit Xhaka stripped of the role after he reacted angrily to fans after being substituted.
While Aubameyang has excelled this term and appears to be relishing the extra responsibility that comes with the armband, there have been rumours he could leave at the end of the season. Speaking about the captaincy, Arteta said he wants it to be someone he can depend on for a while, per Aaron Flanagan of the Daily Mirror:
"At the moment, I think everything is okay. It’s not the time for me to change things in place now because I haven’t seen the real things to make those decisions.
"But the more stability we generate with our captain—and players in the squad—the more clarity we’re going to have to transmit to the fans what we’re trying to do."
Xhaka was named as the Arsenal captain in September following the sale of Laurent Koscielny. However, his infamous reaction to the Emirates Stadium crowd when he was brought off in the game against Crystal Palace prompted a change of mind:
Sky Sports Premier League @SkySportsPL
Not a great afternoon for Granit Xhaka... The Arsenal captain was jeered by his own fans as he was substituted, before reportedly swearing at the crowd and rejecting a handshake from Unai Emery! 😳 Read the Arsenal manager's response here: https://t.co/i0Jq3l1qJN https://t.co/DRb3JXrXm9
Aubameyang was named as his successor, having cemented his status as a key player at the club following his transfer from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.
The Gabon international has thrived in the role and offered his support to his predecessor in his first programme notes as captain:
However, there has been growing speculation that this season may be Aubameyang's last as an Arsenal player.
It was recently reported by Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph that Arteta was facing a struggle to keep the forward at the Emirates Stadium, as he wants to play in the UEFA Champions League next term. Even after their win over Manchester United on Wednesday, the Gunners are in 10th in the Premier League table.
If the striker were to leave Arsenal, it's not just his leadership skills they would miss. As Sky Sports Statto demonstrated, he's one of the best goalscorers around:
Arteta has clearly been brought in with a long-term view in mind, and while he will be keen to turn around the team's form quickly, you sense he will already be formulating plans for the future at the Emirates.
Given his apparent desire to move on, it's unclear whether Aubameyang will be part of that vision beyond May. Arteta may consequently be monitoring his squad for a candidate to take over as the leader of the team.