Mikel Arteta has made a decision on the Arsenal captaincy after replacing Alexandre Lacazette during Thursday night’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg.
The Gunners endured a bitterly disappointing night as two goals either side of half-time from Diogo Jota ended their realistic chances of winning a trophy in 2022.
Perhaps the most underwhelming display came from centre-forward Alexandre Lacazette, who missed Arsenal’s two biggest chances on the night and found himself largely marginalised from the game up against the might of Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip.
It was unsurprising therefore to see the Frenchman hauled off just before the 75-minute mark to be replaced by Eddie Nketiah. While the substitution was largely ineffective, it gave us probably the biggest indication yet of what’s to come at the Emirates Stadium next season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had been in permanent possession of the Arsenal armband, but was stripped of the honour last month after repeated disciplinary breaches.
The Gabon international has not been involved with the first team since, amid interest from teams in Saudi Arabia over a potential move, and in his absence, Arteta has refused to name a permanent successor just yet.
Instead, he has preferred to opt for a leadership group containing Lacazette, Granit Xhaka and Rob Holding, who have all skippered the side in recent weeks.
“We have the leadership group,” he said in the aftermath of last month’s 3-0 win over Southampton. “In the last game, we had Laca. We had Granit who was captain as well. It’s not the time to make any rash decision.”
However, with Xhaka suspended and Holding among the substitutes, Arteta was forced to make a decision on who is next in line for the captaincy at the Emirates Stadium upon withdrawing Lacazette.
Initially, he gave the armband to Thomas Partey, who was also coming on for Emile Smith Rowe at the same time.
The Ghanaian would go on to get himself unnecessarily sent off just 15 minutes later for a second yellow card, underlining why he may not be among the candidates for the role.
It is probably lucky, therefore, that after carrying the armband in his hand for a few moments after coming on, Partey immediately handed it to Kieran Tierney at the next stoppage in play.
This would seem to indicate that the Scotland international is high in Arteta’s thinking when it comes to a permanent decision over who will be the next permanent Gunners skipper.
Lacazette is likely to leave in the summer when his contract expires, while Xhaka has already been stripped of the role in the past and Holding is not a first-team regular in north London, meaning that the former Celtic man is probably an ideal fit going forward.
The 24-year-old is in charge of collecting the fines in the Arsenal dressing room, and despite being a relatively quiet character off the pitch, he is immensely respected by his teammates.
The likes of Martin Odegaard, Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale and Gabriel had all been touted as potential long-term successors to Aubameyang, but it seems that it could be Tierney who is Arteta’s first choice.
The Spaniard has already publicly shown his admiration for his first-choice left-back, and revealed that he embodies all the characteristics he is looking for in his players as he seeks to take his project at the Emirates Stadium forward.
“Absolutely there is another character in this dressing room that transmits every value that I would like to transmit to the club and our fans [and it is Kieran],” Arteta said after Tierney’s signed a contract extension with the Gunners in the summer.
“Again, it is young, hungry, talented, and people with huge desire and again he has all four ingredients – and he didn’t want to talk about anything other than staying here.
“He had a really, really good season after a really difficult start at the club and I really value people that when things aren’t going for them, they don’t give up. Kieran didn’t give up, he needed support and I think the club gave him a lot of support, but he was really willing to turn that situation around and prove people wrong if people were doubting him.
“That character, I think it shows on the pitch – when anything happens that is not going for us, you don’t give up, you just raise your level, try to be better and transmit that to the rest of the team so they all believe.”
Source by Football London