Arsenal show soft core still exists by handing Theo Walcott the captaincy

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Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to Chelsea last Sunday could be the game that defines The Gunners' season; because if they fail to win their first league title in 12 years by a point or two then this match against one of their biggest rivals will be looked upon as an opportunity missed. A match that, from the captaincy to the tactical substitutions, revolved around anniversary boy Theo Walcott.

After the sending off of regular captain Per Mertesacker, did Wenger really sacrifice the in-form Olivier Giroud and not Walcott because the latter had just come across his tenth anniversary at the club?

If this is the case then it is quite frankly ludicrous. If the title was already theirs then yeah, it would have been a nice gesture, but we are still in January approaching a game against a fierce rival on a day that Arsenal began and ultimately ended three points behind league leaders Leicester City.


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This 'soft' approach, including the seemingly never-ending supply of selfies that various members of the squad insist on sharing, is what has kept Arsene Wenger's side back in third and fourth place over the past decade.

Low points of this kind of behaviour include Wojciech Szczesny snapping himself (not literally, unfortunately) on the pitch with his phone straight after Arsenal's 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur nearly two years ago; and the biggest degradation of them all coming in the form of the embarrassing dressing room photos showing players haphazardly gathered, arms aloft and around each other, shirts off, looking like they're giving each other the bumps, celebrating their fourth place finish at the end of the 2012-13 season after a 1-0 win at Newcastle United.

One cannot say that it is just because of overly-hedonistic selfies that Arsenal shoot themselves in the foot, but that pastime and decisions like handing captaincy duties to a player purely for sentimental reasons in the middle of a title race exemplifies the soft core at the centre of the team's DNA. It is the attitude that possesses them to do these things that is at heart here.

Even Manchester United haven't been averse to the ''look-at-me'' act in recent seasons and it has coincided with them not performing on the pitch. You couldn't imagine Alex Ferguson being happy seeing his players taking photos of themselves in the dressing room unless they were with a trophy.

When United faced Blackburn Rovers on May 3, 1993, they were 2-1 up in injury time when they got a free-kick on the edge of the box. The usual suspects like Ryan Giggs, Paul Ince and Bryan Robson stood around the ball, but so did Gary Pallister, a defender who hadn't scored all season. Sure enough, he took it, scored and helped provide us with one of the defining images of the Premier League - a surprised and beaming Fergie being lit up by thousands of cameras.

They were already assured of being champions before that match, so there is not even a comparison between that night and what Arsenal did on behalf of Theo Walcott on Sunday. United's was a quick decision that had little riding on it. One could say that, in terms of first team games, Walcott has not even completed the equivalent of ten years at the club.

He joined the club as a 16-year-old and has had some long-term injuries, so it's not his fault for not playing often for some campaigns, but it doesn't get away from the fact that he has been a regular in the first team for seven seasons, including this one, not ten.

Whether the subject of captaincy is so important that it can affect the result of a match is open to debate (although there must have been a difference between having Tony Adams or Remi Garde as your enforcer), so that is not the main issue here, but the thinking behind it certainly is.

Maybe a gesture like this can lift a player for that match and be good in the long run as it shows that the manager thinks a lot of him, but it is really not worth messing with the dynamics of the team for.

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