Ranking every Arsenal star on whether they should be captain

Matt Stead

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the captaincy and Arsenal have 27 first-team players to choose from as their new skipper.


1) Alexandre Lacazette
Probably won’t join Tottenham, Barcelona or Manchester United. Probably won’t go on strike to leave for anywhere in the first place. Probably won’t tell the fans to f**k off. Probably will turn up to things at the agreed time. Probably won’t retire. Probably won’t be Thomas Vermaelen. Those criteria might not seem important in isolation or immediately come to mind when sourcing a captain but Arsenal could do with ticking such boxes first and going from there.

That the best candidate for the job is actually out of contract in the summer is a pretty fair approximation of the current situation.


2) Kieran Tierney
Adheres to the unspoken rule of the most suitable Premier League captains being Scottish. Has there ever been a bad Premier League captain from Scotland? Almost definitely not. Would also inject the Arsenal DNA with an insatiable desire to always wear short sleeves. And he does just feel like a captain. Also carries his stuff in plastic Tesco bags so would keep a strangely young squad level-headed.


Aubameyang vs Arteta is a distraction Arsenal could do without


3) Gabriel Magalhaes
Has proven himself adept in a scrap. It can be difficult not to instinctively assume he is already captain, considering he is both tall and a central defender. That is usually enough. Easy to envisage him being sent off late on in a humbling defeat to a Premier League title challenger before apologising to the fans over social media. Does have the backing of Martin Keown, which unfortunately rules him out.


4) Martin Odegaard
Already captains Erling Haaland at international level so making him skipper would mean Arsenal are undeniable and clear favourites to sign the Borussia Dortmund striker. Also does not feel like there has ever been a bad Norwegian captain in the Premier League. Not as universally good as Scottish captains but still.


5) Thomas Partey
Deputy captain of Ghana. Qualifies as a veteran in this team at 28. And with the added responsibility of the armband he might finally come out of his shell a little more and start actually shooting from range.


6) Takehiro Tomiyasu
The only thing that counts against him is that he is too consistent to be a captain. A proper captain has to be susceptible to the rare but crucially occasional mistake – current incumbents include Seamus Coleman, Mark Noble, Tyrone Mings, Jamaal Lascelles, Kasper Schmeichel and Harry Maguire, for crying out loud – not a reliable 7/10er. Absolutely nailed on leadership group material, mind. He is James Milner with 28 Japan caps.


7) Rob Holding
Would collect fines with unique relish and frequency. He absolutely has that air about him. Would also arrange the best parties, be the most reliable in terms of collecting money for staff gifts, command respect for his music choices at the front of the team coach and get ‘non-negotiables’ tattooed on his arse cheeks. But he doesn’t play, which could cause a slight issue.


8) Emile Smith Rowe
Same age as Cesc Fabregas when Arsene Wenger made the Spaniard captain after stripping the previous holder – William Gallas – of the armband. Meant to be.


9) Benjamin White
See Gabriel. Would also clamp down completely on nicknames and even the shortening of forenames. Robert Holding and Edward Nketiah have other stuff to worry about before putting that on their plates.


10) Nuno Tavares
Either Arsenal appoint a 21-year-old Portuguese left-back who they signed in July, is not guaranteed to start and has been recently linked with Manchester City as their new captain, or this here football club has an infestation of cowardice.


11) Albert Sambi Lokonga
Made Anderlecht captain by Vincent Kompany and only lost three of his 16 Belgian top-flight league games with the armband last season. Remains unbeaten at calling heads or tails from the coin toss.


12) Calum Chambers
The longest-serving first teamer at Arsenal, which has to count for something. Not much, but something. Has lost his only two Premier League starts this season by an aggregate score of 7-0 and has not been in any matchday squad since late October, which also has to count for something. Probably more, really.


13) Gabriel Martinelli
“Arteta is the boss. I am trying to follow his path in being an idol at the club, winning trophies and being captain of the club,” he said upon signing a five-year contract last August. To be fair, there is not a single Arsenal fan that would not fully embrace it.


14) Bernd Leno
A back-up keeper is many things: bored, resentful, unhinged, simultaneously not that busy yet never blessed with free time. Most of all, they are absolutely not a captaincy candidate.


15) Cedric Soares
Kind of forgot he was still there but then not many others learned about being a skipper from Jose Fonte and that cannot possibly be underestimated.


16) Sead Kolasinac
Did defend a teammate from armed robbers but he might unfortunately remind Mikel Arteta of Mesut Ozil.


17) Mohamed Elneny
Another leadership group staple for as long as he sticks around. Said that Odegaard “has the personality to be a captain” and is always “coaching players, outside of the dressing room as well” in March. Perfect when someone needs to wear the armband for a few minutes at the end of a routine League Cup win, but anything more permanent would be a mistake.


18) Aaron Ramsdale
Imagine the sheer amount of fronting up he would get through. There would be genuine concern for his welfare if he simultaneously took the armband while displacing Jordan Pickford as England No. 1. Euro 2016 Joe Hart would wince at how worked up his natural heir gets. It simply shouldn’t be allowed to happen for the sake of everything.


19) Eddie Nketiah
Depends entirely on whether Arteta wants to break the captaincy jinx or not. If he’d rather maintain the hoodoo then might as well give it to a player who actively wants to leave when his contract expires at the end of the current season, having rejected offers of an extension.


20) Pablo Mari
I got nothing.


21) Arthur Okonkwo
Made a single Premier League matchday squad between mid-August and late November, before taking a seat on the bench as an unused substitute for the last three games. The natural progression is that he takes Ramsdale’s starting spot by February and inherits the armband for the final game of the season.

Arthur Okonkwo issues instructions


22) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Last started a Premier League defeat for Arsenal on December 19, 2020. Unfortunately seems to have a really quite tumultuous relationship with the manager. Has not moved to publicly distance himself from speculation surrounding a move to Everton, which speaks volumes about his desperation.


23) Nicolas Pepe
Tottenham sacked Mauricio Pochettino and appointed Jose Mourinho purely for the All or Nothing documentary drama so the least Arsenal could do is replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as captain with a club-record signing who hasn’t started a Premier League game since mid-October.


24) Folarin Balogun
Expected to leave on loan in January, considering he has 13 goals and three assists in 11 Premier League 2 games so far this season. His record as captain for the U23s in 2021/22 is P9 W5 D1 L3 F31 A21, including a 6-1 away win and 5-3 home defeat. It would be fun as a bare minimum.


25) Granit Xhaka
It would be utterly phenomenal but not even Arsenal would do it. Although they absolutely would and might.


26) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The latest to carry the burden and suffer the curse of The One Ring in Arsenal’s Lord of the Armbands spin-off. Became corrupted with power and befriended a weird troll-like creature – Piers Morgan called his captaincy demotion ‘shameful’ and ‘disgusting’ – while being carried by his selfless companions. Will hopefully recover and find peace now as part of the Fellowship of the Emirates as the hex has been passed on.


27) Bukayo Saka
He’s suffered enough.