Inside the upper tier concourse of Emirates Stadium there’s a photo gallery displaying headshots of every permanent Arsenal captain of the modern era. At the bottom, where the most recent skippers stare back at you blankly from the plain white wall, I always tend to think the same thing as I walk on past.
There are way too many of them.
Since Arsene Wenger’s first (and best) appointment, Patrick Vieira, there have been more misses than hits. Although well intentioned at the outset, many of the Frenchman’s choices have eventually left him with regrets.
Thierry Henry had the stature, but maybe not the personality. He was an individualist.
Sometimes petulant and easily agitated, William Gallas didn’t have the mindset to lead a young squad that craved positive examples.
From what I hear, Cesc Fabregas became a little too big for his boots after the honour was bestowed upon him; plus his eye was always on the Nou Camp.
And for his final season in the north London sun, Robin van Persie raised his own game but ownership of the armband couldn’t (as Wenger may have hoped) prevent a defection to Manchester United.
Since then Thomas Vermaelen, and more recently Mikel Arteta have rarely been a) fit to play enough games, or b) good enough to be regular starters.
As a consequence the armband has been passed around to various stand-ins.
Arsenal’s captaincy has been in a state of semi-limbo for the best part of a decade, and that’s too long. This summer feels like it would be the ideal time to bookend that period, and start a new era, with a leader that has the potential to become an icon.
My choice would be Petr Cech.
And if this week’s rumours are to be believed, Wenger is pondering this very thought.
Some will claim goalkeepers don’t make good captains, but I don’t buy into that theory.
A modern skipper is somebody the rest of the squad looks up to and respects, somebody that will lead by example, somebody that communicates with authority, and somebody who is comfortable with the idea of being a buffer between the players and the boss.
They certainly don’t need to be crunching into 50-50s every five minutes. And let’s face it, no one’s allowed to do that these days anyway.
For me, Cech ticks all the necessary boxes.
He’s a likeable man, that’s held in the highest regard. His place in the team is untouchable. He commands respect around the world. He has won every domestic honour multiple times, as well as both European crowns. He has a physically intimidating presence, in the mould of an Adams or Vieira.
And perhaps most pertinently of all, at 33, with a young family settled in London, he isn’t likely to seek a move any day soon.
If he got the nod, all the other candidates, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Cazorla and Ramsey, would fully accept and understand the manager’s decision. It’s a call that adds up.
Like many non-British coaches, Wenger has held a fairly laid-back attitude towards the importance of a captain, but I do think Arsenal’s own history can teach him something.
All of their best periods have featured strong captains that epitomized the sides they led to success. Frank McLintock, Pat Rice, Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira were all natural born winners, and Cech, I believe, is built from the same stuff. There’s strength and gravitas to everything he does.
We’ve seen Arsene Wenger adapt his attitudes towards major transfers, high wages, and variable tactics in recent seasons - and he’s beginning to reap the rewards for those changes. Two FA Cup triumphs and a genuine title challenge represent improvement.
A captain’s role is still very important. If the Gunners boss recognizes that, and opts for Petr Cech as his new, long-term skipper, it’s a decision he won’t regret.
He’ll be at the back, but always leading from the front.