Arteta eyes future captaincy candidates

Arteta eyes future captaincy candidates

Arteta eyes future captaincy candidates

Arsenal fans may continue to have mixed feelings about Mikel Arteta, yet the Spanish coach does appear to be getting better performances from his team. Now tantalisingly within touching distance of the top four, the Gunners are most definitely in the thick of the fight for that lucrative last Champions League spot.

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Amidst the improved results and an increasingly positive atmosphere around the squad, there seems to be a renewed sense of momentum, which is largely down to the younger players from what Arteta has been saying recently.

The gaffer is placing a lot of responsibility on these young shoulders, but given they appear to be consistently living up to their expectations, this bodes well for the future. Indeed, it also seems that Arteta has a long-term vision for two players in particular.

Team leadership role for Martin Odegaard

Every good team needs great leadership and while that can come in many forms, having the respect of your fellow players is certainly one of the key ingredients. Unfortunately for Arsenal, they haven’t had much fortune in recent years regarding their choice of captains.

Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang was one of the last recipients of the captaincy, sat smiling alongside Arteta in the official 2021-22 Arsenal first team photo, which the club titled “Together” when it was published in September last year.

However, there were problems behind the scenes. Aubameyang returned late from a trip to France in December, not his first disciplinary issue, which led to him being stripped of the captaincy by Arteta and ostracised from the team. His contract was then rescinded by mutual consent, which lead to the Gabon international joining Barcelona.

Following a catalogue of unfortunate captaincy appointments, Arteta is now taking a more considered view of who deserves to hold such a responsibility, whilst also seemingly of the opinion that age should be no barrier.

Since enjoying his initial spell on loan and then securing a permanent move, Martin Odegaard has firmly established himself as a key player and firm favourite amongst the fans. His popularity with fellow players has also been observed by Arteta.

“He is such a nice, humble guy and he leads with the way he is,” Arteta pointed out recently when probed about who could be the next Arsenal captain. “He certainly has all the qualities to do that, absolutely,” insisted the Spaniard, confident that Odegaard is the right man for the job.

“The way he lives his profession, the way he likes to play football and everything he does are to become better,” highlighted Arteta, clearly a huge admirer of what the 23-year-old Norwegian contributes to the team.

Given his exceptional professionalism, a strong sense of humility and burning hunger to succeed, Odegaard would certainly be a great choice for Arsenal, especially considering he could hold the captaincy role for years to come.

Emile Smith Rowe the shooting star

Despite being frequently in and out of the side, Emile Smith Rowe is currently Arsenal’s leading scorer in the Premier League, which is even more praiseworthy considering he has never once featured as a centre forward this season. 

The young England playmaker is primarily an attacking midfielder, although he has most frequently featured out on the left during most of the current campaign, occasionally playing through the middle from deep.

Following the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, along with the failure to secure the services of a replacement in the January transfer window, the Gunners are left with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketia as the only true strikers in the team. 

Arteta challenged his Arsenal side to spread the burden of scoring, aiming to get more players involved in finishing attacking moves. At the time of writing, Bukayo Saka has netted 7 in all competitions, while Smith Rowe has 9 Premier League goals and one in the EFL Cup.

Four of those goals for Smith Rowe came in appearances from the bench, while each goal has come whilst playing out wide on the left. However, the versatile 21-year-old has all the hallmarks of becoming a genuine centre forward, according to Arteta.

“He can play as a left-winger, he can play as a left attacking midfielder, right attacking midfielder, and he can play as a nine. Very. Very well I think,” enthused Arteta when discussing the potential of Smith Rowe.

Arsenal was tipped to move for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic in January, although he moved to Italy instead and Juventus. The Gunners were also linked with Swedish target man Aleksander Isak, yet the asking price set by Real Sociedad was considered far too high.

Having expressed his thoughts, it could be that Arteta will encourage Smith Rowe to take up the mantle up top, which could prove to be a boon for Arsenal.

If the player can successfully be converted to a striker, this would save the club a significant amount of money next summer.

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