For the best past of a season-and-a-half, Arsenal haven’t really had a captain. Thomas Vermaelen is still the club’s skipper, but the out-of-favour defender has spent most of the last 12 months on the substitutes’ bench.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger should have done the right thing and removed the captain’s armband from the Belgium international last summer. After all, he knew full well that his centre-back pairing for the entire season - barring injuries or a catastrophic dip in form - would be Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
The defensive duo haven’t let Wenger down this season. Mertesacker and Koscielny picked up from where they left off at the end of last season, and have struck up one of the best centre-back partnerships in European football.
Vermaelen, meanwhile, looks increasingly likely to leave the Emirates Stadium this summer. The 28-year-old, for the good of his own career, needs to exit the club and become a first-choice central defender elsewhere.
This will, in turn, free up the captaincy. But instead of handing it to the next in line, Mikel Arteta, or even the second in line, Mertesacker, Wenger should take a leap of faith and hand the armband to the player who has looked destined to wear it ever since he burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 16-year-old.
Jack Wilshere is Arsenal through and through. A tenacious yet classy midfielder who leads by example. He already demands a huge amount from his teammates when he’s on the pitch, but making him the team’s leader could take him on another level.
Back in November, Wilshere revealed his desire to become an Arsenal captain in the future. “I've grown up at this club and I have captained the club at under-16 level, under-18 level and last season as well I got the armband for 20 minutes or so [against West Ham in January] which was a nice feeling,” he told the Independent. “I want to do that [be a leader] for this club.”
Neither Arteta nor Mertesacker have Arsenal in their blood like Wilshere does - and although this alone doesn’t make him captain material, the fact that he has the potential to become a world-class player means this decision should be a no-brainer for Wenger.
While there will be interest in Wilshere from Europe’s biggest clubs over the next few years, this is one potential Arsenal captain who will stay true to his word when he says he’ll always be a Gunner. Wenger can make him even more reluctant to leave by handing him the captain’s armband.
Sure, this didn’t work for either Cesc Fabregas or Robin van Persie, but neither bled Arsenal. Fabregas is Barcelona through and through, albeit with a huge soft spot for Arsenal having spent eight years at the club, while Van Persie grew up in his native Holland supporting his first club Feyenoord.
With Wilshere, you know it’s true when he says he loves Arsenal. If he wasn’t playing for them, he’d be watching from the stands amongst the rest of the Gunners’ faithful.
At 22 years old, Wilshere is still young, but possesses a mature head on his youthful shoulders.
So, Arsene, why wait any longer?
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