Arsenal were stunned this off-season when their long-serving captain Laurent Koscielny refused to travel with the squad to the United States for their pre-season tour. Sky Sports reported that the Frenchman wants a return to his homeland, demanding a early release from his contract – which has only a year to run. A club statement said that his actions were very much against their clear instructions and it is now thought that the decision-makers at Arsenal will willingly listen to any offers for the centre-back should their valuation be met, only then can Koscielny get his wish this summer.
If that wasn’t enough the club are already struggling to get their hands on numerous transfer targets – a £25m bid for Celtic’s Kieran Tierney was recently rejected. They’ve also lost some big characters this season after the retirement of Petr Cech and the departure on a free of Aaron Ramsey to Juventus. Now regardless of the Koscielny outcome, Arsenal lack serious leadership and this way of doing things doesn’t set the best impression on the club. Even if the 33-year-old isn’t sold this summer, there’s no way he makes any sort of joyous return to the starting squad – bridges have been well and truly burned.
One player who is likely to step up to the club captain role is Granit Xhaka who The Sun say is the leading candidate to take the armband this summer. The 26-year-old has been a regular feature in the Arsenal midfield since joining the club in a £30m deal from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016. During his stint in Germany, he was named captain of the club at the young age of 22 where he quickly became a natural born leader. Xhaka is also captain of his national side Switzerland which only emphasises the trust a number of managers have put in him despite his questionable disciplinary record. As one of the longer serving members of the squad, Xhaka seems like an ideal candidate – he has made 134 appearances, scoring 11 goals and assisting 16 more.
Next up you are probably looking at someone of an older age with more experience and it is only really Nacho Monreal that fits the bill. The Spaniard has been hugely valuable for The Gunners over recent years, being able to play left-back and central defence. He’s also been here much longer than Xhaka having joined the club in 2013 from Malaga – since going on to feature 248 times in the red colours of North London. One of the negatives towards Monreal’s bid for captaincy would be surrounding his place amongst the squad with question marks over whether he would be first choice next term. The 33-year-old only made 22 Premier League appearances in the 2018/19 season. Reports linking the club to Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney would only add weight to the argument that Monreal is likely to be a backup.
Emery revealed last summer that he would have five ‘captains’ during the 2018/19 campaign and the only name that hasn’t been mentioned yet amongst those five is Mesut Ozil – who currently isn’t the the most popular figure amongst the Emirates’ faithful. This will be Ozil’s seventh year at Arsenal with fans yet to really see him pay off the £42.4m they paid for him from Real Madrid. Right-back Hector Bellerin could be a more worthy option; some supporters certainly believe so after his recent interactions in Los Angeles this week. It’s something that needs to be resolved before Arsenal embark on their return to England.