Aubameyang is just the latest disastrous Arsenal captain

Gallas threw a strop on the pitch and Xhaka told fans to ‘f*** off’, Van Persie and Fabregas forced a transfer while Vermaelen and Mertesacker were injury cursed… Aubameyang is just the latest in a long line of disastrous Arsenal captains

  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy
  • He follows William Gallas and Granit Xhaka in having the armband taken away
  • Others Gunners skippers have gone on to leave the club not long afterwards
  • Other players have been struck down by injuries after taking leadership job 

Arsenal fans will be forgiven for concluding that the captain’s armband is cursed at their club.

With the news that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the captaincy after reporting back late for club duty following a trip to France, another Gunners skipper has unceremoniously bitten the dust.

It is a ruthless move by Mikel Arteta, based not only on this latest indiscretion but existing doubts about whether the Gabon striker was actually the right man to lead the club.

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the captaincy by Mikel Arteta

Aubameyang headed back to France last week to visit his mother, who has been unwell

In a further sign of the friction between player and coach, Aubameyang won’t even be considered for selection when Arsenal host West Ham on Wednesday night.

But Arsenal have very much been here before. In fact, several times. Aubameyang follows William Gallas and Granit Xhaka in having the captaincy taken away from them.

Others received the honour and then forced through a move to a rival club, while others seemed stricken by injury as soon as they got it.

And the less said about Unai Emery and his five-strong leadership group the better.

You could say that since Thierry Henry departed the club as captain back in 2007, it’s been a catalogue of captaincy calamity that has left Arsenal fans crying out for the solid-as-a-rock leadership of Tony Adams or Patrick Vieira.

The Arsenal striker took to social media this week to explain the reason for his absence

But his late return to Arsenal has been a cause for dismay and he has now lost the armband



Those fans who had doubts when Gallas was picked as Henry’s successor were proven right when the French defender threw a wobbly after a 2-2 draw at Birmingham that dented Arsenal’s title hopes.

In a tempestuous match, striker Eduardo had his leg broken following a tackle by Martin Taylor and James McFadden converted a late penalty conceded by Gael Clichy to see Arsenal drop two valuable points in their title battle with Man United.

When the penalty was awarded, Gallas walked into the Birmingham half in apparent protest, kicked advertising hoardings in fury when it went in and after the final whistle simply sat in the centre circle in a sulk until manager Arsene Wenger came to retrieve him.

William Gallas has his infamous centre circle sulk after Arsenal drew at Birmingham in 2008

Arsene Wenger eventually had to come out and remove his sulking captain from the pitch

Team-mate Jens Lehmann later recalled: ‘After the match, he refused to leave the pitch and sat down in the centre circle like a sulky child.

‘In the dressing room, Gallas came to blows with Gilberto Silva, who accused him of seeking attention in a daft manner. The row dragged on for the remainder of the season.’

He kept the captaincy after that fit of petulance but lost it in November that same year after giving an interview in which he revealed tensions in the dressing room and criticised younger players for lacking the necessary courage to succeed.



Aged only 21, Spanish midfielder Fabregas became Arsenal’s second youngest-ever captain when he replaced Gallas. Almost immediately, he was ruled out for four months with a knee injury.

Fabregas was an excellent player and there were moments of magic when wearing the armband. 

Cesc Fabregas suffered a series of injury setbacks after being handed the armband in 2008

For example, he scored and supplied four assists in a 6-2 win over Blackburn Rovers in 2009. He also supplied two of each in a 6-1 win over Everton on the opening day of 2009-10.

He was susceptible to injury lay-offs, however, and by 2010 speculation was intensifying that he might return to boyhood club Barcelona.

As Arsenal laboured to a 2-2 draw with Fulham on the final day of the 2010-11 season, Fabregas angered supporters by tweeting a picture from the Spanish Grand Prix.

He would ultimately seal his return to Barcelona, emulating Henry in being an Arsenal skipper who moved to the Nou Camp.

Ultimately, Fabregas would return to his boyhood club Barcelona in the summer of 2011



In another appointment that turned out to be a bit awkward, Dutch striker Robin van Persie succeeded Fabregas at the start of 2011-12.

More experienced, already vice-captain and a reliable goalscorer, he was a more comfortable fit and being captain certainly didn’t slow him down.

Van Persie scored 37 goals in 48 matches in all competitions that season, winning the Premier League Golden Boot in the process.

Robin van Persie was appointed Arsenal captain in 2011 but moved to Man United a year later


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But Arsenal could only finish third in the table and the one thing Van Persie really wanted was a winners’ medal in England.

Rejecting a new Arsenal contract in July 2012, he moved to Manchester United for an initial £22.5million in August in a colossal blow for Arsene Wenger and his team.

‘I always listen to the little boy inside of me in these situations – when you have to make the harder decisions in life. What does he want?’ Van Persie later recalled.

‘That boy was screaming for Man United. From my side, and Arsenal as well, there are no hard feelings.’

The fans probably didn’t think the same but Van Persie was vindicated when another Golden Boot-winning haul delivered United the title in 2012-13.



An Arsenal player for three seasons and Van Persie’s vice-captain, Vermaelen seemed like a safe pair of hands for the role.

And things started well enough in 2012-13 before the Belgian defender fell victim to the captain’s injury curse.

Knee problems meant he could only play a bit-part role during the 2013-14 season, which was a shame because the fans always appreciated his effort.

Thomas Vermaelen was a popular figure but was plagued by injury when Arsenal captain

By the time of the FA Cup win in 2014, Arsenal’s first piece of silverware for nine long years, Vermaelen was no more than an unused substitute against Hull, with Mikel Arteta leading the team at Wembley.

And in a recurring theme, and despite all these injury issues, Vermaelen made a £15m move that summer to, you’ve guessed it, Barcelona.



An Arsenal player since 2011, trusted and experienced, Arteta really was the obvious next captain when Vermaelen left the club.

But there was one quite major problem. The midfielder was 32 and in the twilight of his playing career, little more than a bit-part figure in the team.

He made just 12 appearances in 2014-15 and 14 the following season as fitness issues and competition for midfield places kept him sidelined.

Mikel Arteta in the centre of Arsenal’s FA Cup celebrations in 2015 despite not playing

However, foreshadowing his current stint as manager, Arteta showed plenty of leadership off the field, helping younger players such as Hector Bellerin feel at ease around the first-team group.

Arsenal again won the FA Cup in 2015, thrashing Aston Villa 4-0 in the final, but Arteta wasn’t even in the matchday squad. He did, however, climb the Wembley steps to lift the trophy with Per Mertesacker.

Delight for Per Mertesacker as Arsenal beat Chelsea to win the 2017 FA Cup final



When Arteta hung up his boots in 2016, Mertesacker was appointed captain despite the knowledge he would miss a large chunk of the following season with a knee injury.

It reflected the high esteem in which Wenger and everyone at Arsenal held the big German defender in.

‘Wenger knew how long I was out, but he told me that he still saw me as a big figure for the club and that I was his first choice,’ Mertesacker told the Daily Telegraph at the time.

‘I was really buzzing as it came at the time I didn’t think it was going to happen.’

He made just two appearances all season but one came in the FA Cup final win over Chelsea, allowing Mertesacker to lift a trophy as captain.

The defender recovered to make a few more outings in 2017-18 but his role as captain was more as club figurehead than on-pitch leader.



Wenger made way for Unai Emery and the armband was passed on yet again, with Laurent Koscielny replacing his sometime central defensive partner Mertesacker.

But Emery wanted to do things slightly differently and democratised the captaincy by making a leadership group also featuring Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka.

Laurent Koscielny was Arsenal captain for a season before forcing through a move away

Part of the reason for that was Koscielny missed most of the first half of the season with a Achilles tendon rupture.

The Frenchman did eventually return to the side but Arsenal could only finish fifth and were thrashed by Chelsea in the UEFA Europa League final.

Then, as has become familiar, everything went south with Koscielny refusing to travel on Arsenal’s pre-season tour of the United States in order to force through a move to Bordeaux.



Having rotated the armband for a little while, Emery decided to hold a vote amongst the squad for their preferred captain.

Swiss midfielder Xhaka, at the club since 2016, won the poll with the new leadership group consisting of Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Ozil and Hector Bellerin.

Xhaka came with the added bonus of actually playing regularly but merely one month into his captaincy, everything backfired spectacularly.

Granit Xhaka doesn’t react well to being booed when substituted off against Crystal Palace

In a home game with Crystal Palace in October 2019, a section of fans cheered when Xhaka was substituted in the 61st minute. Xhaka was then booed as he walked from the field.

His reaction wasn’t exactly the best, making several sarcastic gestures, twice telling the jeering fans to ‘f*** off’ and removing his shirt before walking straight down the tunnel.

Emery refused to defend his captain afterwards, saying his actions were ‘wrong’ and there were widespread calls for Xhaka to be severely disciplined.

Xhaka removed his shirt before storming straight down the tunnel after telling fans to ‘f*** off’

The player issued a Twitter missive in which he talked about his ‘feeling of not being understood by fans’ and complained about repeated abuse both inside stadiums and on social media, which included death threats.

He kind of apologised but was stripped of the captaincy a month and a week after being appointed though remains at the club despite being linked with a move away several times.



With the country in lockdown, Aubameyang was filmed posing with a new tattoo alongside a tattoo artist.

Arsenal investigated the incident to find out if lockdown rules had been breached but kept their findings in-house, with Arteta saying: ‘Whatever we do with our players we keep it internally. 

‘It is true that there are a lot of members of our squad that have extended families at home and if any player does something that is not in the regulation obviously the club acts immediately – but always privately as well.’

MARCH 2021

Aubameyang was left on the bench for the north London derby due to lateness. 

‘He was going to start the game,’ Arteta told Sky Sports. ‘We had a disciplinary issue. We have drawn the line and we move on. He is on the bench.

‘We have a process we have to respect for every game and that is it. We have a way of leaving together that we have to respect each other and that is it.

‘But he is an incredible guy and he is one of the most important players in the team, he is our captain, and we move forward.’

Arsenal won the game 2-1, with Aubameyang an unused substitute. 


Having returned late from a pre-approved trip to France to visit his ill mother, Aubameyang has lost the captain’s armband at Arsenal and his future has been thrown into major doubt. 

In a curt statement on Tuesday, Arsenal said: ‘Following his latest disciplinary breach last week, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will no longer be our club captain, and will not be considered for selection for Wednesday’s match against West Ham United.

‘We expect all our players, particularly our captain, to work to the rules and standards we have all set and agreed. We are fully focused on tomorrow’s match.’

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