Arsenal must take captaincy away from Thomas Vermaelen

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Who is Arsenal's club captain?

You could be forgiven for not knowing. Considering he hasn't started a Premier League game for Arsenal this season, it would be a surprise if Arsene Wenger himself really knew who his club captain was.

Thanks to an aggravated back injury, Arsenal's captain Thomas Vermaelen sat out the last few weeks of pre-season. He is now at full fitness but, as of yet, has only played 10 minutes of Premier League football.

This is in addition to Vermaelen being dropped in favour of stubborn pair Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny for the final 10 games of the season.

Unfortunately for him, his dropping coincided with a sharp upturn in fortunes for the Gunners, which saw them leapfrog rivals Tottenham to a crucial Champions League place.

The fact is that Vermaelen was dropped because he was simply playing badly whereas Koscielny and Mertesacker were playing very, very well.

So why has Vermaelen retained the armband for this season?

It seems that Wenger was happy to stick with the same centre-back pairing regardless of Vermaelen's injury, meaning the Belgian was destined for a season on the bench.

This has done nothing but deprive Arsenal of a clear leader on the field. They have vice-captain Mikel Arteta, but he has also been injured and faces a fight for his place in the squad.

No one can doubt it has been a tough two years for Vermaelen. After originally impressing the Arsenal faithful following his move form Ajax in 2009, a seemingly novel injury to his Achilles kept him out for the entire season.

He is yet to regain that form on a permanent basis.

So what to do?

No one can deny that Vermaelen has the character to rekindle his best form. But Arsenal are in the midsts of mounting a title challenge and can't wait for stragglers. 

Tough games against Manchester United and Liverpool lie ahead in November and the squad needs a nailed on leader to guide them through the tough times.

Mertesacker, who has played every minute of every game this season, is an obvious choice. Although not blessed with technical ability, the German defender is solid, reliable and obviously commands a lot of respect within the squad.

He can be Arsenal's leader in a season where fighting for silverware looks a genuine possibility. 

Like Tony Adams in 1999 and Patrick Vieira in 2004, a stand-out leader is needed for a title challenge to be successful.

In Vermaelen, Arsenal have a mascot, a cheerleader, a motivational speaker. What they don't have is a leader. 

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Premier League
Thomas Vermaelen
Per Mertesacker

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