Laurent Koscielny’s appalling behaviour in excusing himself from pre-season duties must have been a shock to the system. Captains are meant to lead by example – and in the Frenchman, Arsenal had, until Thursday, someone who had displayed the desired level of commitment of a skipper or indeed a top-level professional footballer.
With the 33-year-old reportedly looking for a move away, the club has been rather unlucky in dealing with wantaway players – particularly in the captain role, with Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie among those to give up the armband in the act of leaving North London.
The current captain’s stay-at-home stance is reminiscent of Fabregas who, like Koscielny, was not present on Arsenal’s pre-season tour back in 2011 whilst being courted by Barcelona – an incident that the club put down to a hamstring injury at the time prior to the Spaniard’s eventual Camp Nou switch.
In response to Koscielny’s desires to stay put as Arsenal jetted off to the United States, the club have certainly been more unequivocal by outlining the defender’s refusal to travel with the squad – although it perhaps should’ve gone further than that.
The brief statement released upon the team’s journey across the Atlantic stopped short of denoting any punishment for the player – which leaves the future of his captaincy in doubt despite being in a clear breach of his responsibilities as the supposed leader of the team.
If, as expected with such behaviour, Koscielny is indeed stripped of the armband, Arsenal will have wasted time in not making an example of the centre-back by immediately removing the privilege of being Gunners captain upon his actions.
Leaving the possibility of him keeping the captaincy on the table by undergoing due process gives the impression that Koscielny is fighting to persuade the club to essentially bypass the current situation – and whether he ends up losing it or not, any future captain or player with an eye of pastures new may fancy their chances in dictating how to handle their situation at a club far too tolerant to these kinds of misdemeanours.
Arsenal must make sure they win this civil war with their skipper, but have already lost ground in not emphatically putting their foot down once Koscielny stepped out of line. Not only has he left his squad to prepare without him, but he may have exacerbated Arsenal’s transfer woes, too – with The Gunners already in search of a defender.
Having had leaders seemingly leave on their own terms in the past, changing the culture amongst the players will be key as the club look to alter their on-pitch fortunes – and having the right man to front efforts to that end is required to set an example for those under their leadership.
That example should be led from those at the top – but Arsenal are in danger to missing a big opportunity to instigate that in their tame laying down of the law in the unsavoury Koscielny situation.