Two things got me to write this topic today. First, I’m at the moment in the middle of reading Alex Flynn’s “Arsènal – The Making of a Modern Superclub” and I’m currently at the chapter which speaks about the behaviour of a certain William Gallas after the 2-2 draw at Birmingham. Secondly, I’ve just watched the highlights of the Arsenal Reserves’ 4-2 win over Norwich in which Daniel Boateng was sent off. The topic mainly, centres around captaincy.
We are of course aware of what Gallas did 4 seasons back in 2008. We were top of the league table with several points separating us and the nearest challenger when Eduardo’s leg was broken by a thug named Martin Taylor. The conceding of a late equaliser was too much for the then captain to bear. He orchestrated a sit down in the middle of the pitch and sulked.
Then we come to the Boateng incident. Now, I’m not sure if he was the captain at the start of the game. Perhaps Gavin Hoyte was the captain but injury meant the armband was transferred to his central defensive partner. Boateng was sent off after an altercation with a Norwich player, reacting angrily to a late challenge after the ball was gone. He then threw the captain’s armband in the air in disgust before walking off the pitch.
The two separate incidents highlights the behaviour that we would not expect out of the captain, let alone one which leads Arsenal Football Club. No matter which level of football it is, such antics should never exist from a club captain. There’s a long line of illustrious figures who have lead Arsenal in the past. Those includes Frank McLintock, Pat Rice, Kenny Samsom, Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira, just to name a few. These fine gentleman have treated the armband with respect, something clearly missing from the 2 examples that I mentioned.
Arsenal is a club that is rich with tradition and runs things with a certain class. The captain represents a big honour to the player that wears it. These individuals are the one that the team looks to for inspiration and guidance. If the captain themselves shows no respect towards their role, what can we expect out of the rest of the team?
Gallas is history now but I sure hope Neil Banfield takes Boateng aside and talks to him. The main discussion will be on the unnecessary reaction to the challenge which caused the red card in the first place. But somewhere along the chat, Banfield will have to remind Boateng what it means to wear the armband and what it represents towards the club.
I get that he’s a young player who is still learning his trade in football but indiscipline should never be tolerated. Perhaps a stern warning or maybe a fine or maybe some time on the sidelines. Whatever it is, I’m sure the staff at Arsenal will find the right punishment to give to the young centreback.
Events like these also highlights the beauty of the other end of the spectrum. Robin Van Persie is the designated first team captain and thus far, there can be no complaints about the way he goes about justifying that responsibility. Every captain can be different in the way they lead the team. Some are more vocal while others choose to lead by example.
At the moment, RvP is perhaps showing more in the latter than former. However, his work in the former cannot be underestimated. There’s a couple of incidents even last season where we saw him taking aside players who seemed to have lost their heads and tried to calm them down. That is leadership right there.
How RvP portrays himself off the pitch is also important to earn the respect of his team mates. He’s a family man and sometimes that responsibility can be replicated on the training ground and in matches. What he says on camera and in interviews shows respect to those who gave him his break in football while being mindful of his role as the figurehead of Arsenal’s playing staff.
After the captaincy debacle which really started with the passing of the armband from Vieira to Thierry Henry, followed by the subsequent appointment of Gallas. There was even talk that the captaincy was only given to RvP because of his contract running down in 1.5 years time and the responsibility being given to entice him to remain at the club. However, for the first time since Vieira, I genuinely believe that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger has appointed the right personnel to lead the club. I’ll leave you with a quote from Vieira’s autobiography about being Arsenal’s captain.
You either have what it takes to be a leader or you don’t, it’s not something you can go and work on. To be a captain in England is the ultimate recognition because it’s a role that carries enormous symbolism as well as responsibility.