Every team needs a leader, and some are luckier on that front that others. There have been some iconic captains in the years since the Premier League came into existence, players who’ve carried their team with captain’s performances, popped up with captain’s goals when they were needed most; captains fantastic.
Here are five of the best. Tell us who we missed on Twitter or in the comments below.
Appearances: 668 (+6)
Say the words ‘good old-fashioned English centre-half’ three times while looking in a mirror and Tony Adams will appear.
Adams became Arsenal captain at just 21 years old, and rode out well-documented struggles with alcohol to remain as captain until his retirement.
The one-club man captained Arsenal to title wins in three decades, the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. In total, he won the league four times, the FA Cup three times, the League Cup twice and the Cup Winners’ Cup. In that there were two Premiership-FA Cup doubles, and one League Cup-FA Cup double.
It’s also easy to forget that before The Invincibles, there were The Near-Invincibles of Arsenal’s 1990-91 First Division campaign, who won the title having lost just once all season.
His impact has been cultural too, his leadership so powerful that the Arsenal offside trap he marshalled turned up in the Full Monty, and, more seriously, he founded the Sporting Chance Clinic giving specialised support to sportspeople suffering from addiction.
Club: Manchester United
Appearances: 459 (+22)
One of Keane’s predecessors as Manchester United captain was the original Captain Marvel, Bryan Robson. A substantial pair of boots to fill in the centre of midfield, but fill them Keane did – joining from Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest as Robson’s star was fading.
As First Division gave way to Premier League, so did Robson give way to Keane – the Irishman was a British transfer record when he joined United, and Robson, who had found options limited by the arrival of Eric Cantona ahead of the 1992-93 season, was almost completely out of the team by the time he left in May 1994, following Keane’s arrival in the summer of 1993.
Keane became Sir Alex Ferguson’s embodiment on the pitch, more so than any of his other captains, Keane understood what his manager wanted and how to get that same level of commitment from the players around him.
Keane’s time at United brought seven league titles, four FA Cups and that famous Champions League win that night in Barcelona.
The Champions League campaign that year, 1999, summed up Keane. In fact, the semi-final and final summed up Keane – the dichotomy of the man. A yellow card in the semi-final second leg, a game against Juventus in Turin, saw Keane suspended for the final, should United get there. His team were two goals down when he was booked, and he hauled them to a three-two victory, scoring their first goal with a booming header from a corner. A captain’s goal.
“Pounding over every blade of grass, competing as if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player”, said Ferguson of that performance.
Appearances: 639 (+26)
If Keane was Ferguson on the pitch, Terry is Mourinho’s star pupil.
John Terry somehow manages to thrive despite scandals – of which there have been many over the years – the nature of which would derail many other player’s form, or even whole careers.
He ends this season lifting the Premier League trophy for a fourth time, putting that winner’s medal alongside five FA Cups, three League Cups and a Champions League.
This season he played every minute of the league-winning campaign, a feat only matched by one other outfield player, Gary Pallister in 1992-93. Terry also became the Premiership’s top scoring defender of all time this term, with a career which now sits at 38 league goals.
Despite an undoubted return to his best this season, following several injury and distraction plagued years, we are left wondering what kind of force Terry could have been – for England as well as Chelsea – had he been able to keep himself in check, and not sabotaged his own international career.
But then, perhaps he feeds on it? Mourinho is famous for creating ‘common enemies’, the media, referees, opposition managers, they are all against them, and that’s when his players play at their best – Terry is not only no exception, he’s the archetype.
Appearances: 645 (+62)
What more could possibly be said about Steven Gerrard?
A legendary top flight career has drawn to a close, and thousands upon thousands of words have been written and uttered about the man.
Rather than add too many more eulogistic words to the pile, just use this time to ponder once more those two career-defining, trophy-winning performances.
One, in Istanbul in May 2005. 3-0 down to AC Milan. Gerrard scores Liverpool’s first and the tide turns.
Two, in Cardiff a year later. 2-0 down to West Ham. Gerrard scores the equaliser…twice. The second, to make it 3-3, the last shot of a man who had given his all. He might’ve been 35 yards out, but running wasn’t an option anymore, so might as well have a dig.
Now let’s see how Mr Liverpool fares in Los Angeles.
Club: Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, West Ham United
Appearances: 291 (+54), 88 (+3), 139 (+13)
Captain: 2006-2009, 2010-2011, 2011-present
If some players are the personification of their club, others are just natural captains anywhere they go.
Kevin Nolan is unique on this list in that he has captained three club sides, and in the case of West Ham, he was club captain from the day he joined.
Nolan is a workrate player, like everyone on this list – but particularly fellow midfielders Keane and Gerrard – he’ll pick up his team and demand from them the level of devotion he himself puts in.
Relegated after a first season at Newcastle, he top scored in the Championship and was their player of the season as they were promoted at the first time of asking.
He also demonstrated his leadership off the field, becoming part of Andy Carroll’s bail conditions following an assault charge. Carroll needed a permanent residence – he was living out of a hotel – and Nolan took him in, mentoring him as much as fulfilling his legal obligations, and Carroll eventually followed Nolan to West Ham.
But if Nolan has someone to thank for his own career, it’s Big Sam Allardyce. Allardyce entrusted the Bolton captaincy to Nolan, and when he arrived at West Ham, in need of a captain and a man who could get teams promoted, it was Nolan he turned to.
Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract
The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.
Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.
He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.
Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.
It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.
Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.
“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.
“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.
“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”
Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.
It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.
Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.
They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.
There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.
This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.
Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.
Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.
This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.
He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.
A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.
Tottenham Hotspur fans react to Danny Welbeck dive
Tottenham Hotspur fans were not pleased with Danny Welbeck’s dive v AC Milan.
Arsenal successfully knocked AC Milan out of the Europa League last night with a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium. The hero of the night was England forward Danny Welbeck. The striker scored two goals as Arsenal completed a deserved 5-1 aggregate victory over the Rossoneri.
But Milan had taken an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu’s bamboozling long-range strike. Arsenal, at that stage, were looking on the ropes. Welbeck though won and then dispatched a penalty to level the scoring. The word ‘won’ being the optimum word.
Welbeck dived for the penalty, there is no doubt about that. Ricardo Rodriguez barely breathed on the Arsenal man, who tumbled to the ground hopefully. When the penalty was given, he looked in disbelief.
For Tottenham Hotspur fans it was a moment they did not appreciate.
Spurs have seen Dele Alli victimised throughout the season, and some would say rightly so, for his diving. There is no doubt that the England midfielder has dived this season and not many Tottenham fans would suggest not.
But the anger here lies with what Tottenham fans believe is hypocrisy. There is also a certain level or irony given a thinly veiled dig by Arsene Wenger against Spurs’ players this season.
After the highly controversial 2-2 draw at Anfield, where Harry Kane was accused of diving v Liverpool, Wenger had this to say, as reported by the BBC:
“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it.
“But English players have learned very quickly and might be the masters now.”
“Sometimes players play a little bit with the rules. How far can you go? That is down to the referees.”
With Arsenal their next Premier League opponents, Arsene Wenger’s barb was not hard to see.
When that statement came out Tottenham fans quickly pointed out occasions when Arsenal’s English stars had been caught diving. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were prominent examples. Now, in Welbeck, Tottenham have seen another.
Arsenal fans will be happy that their team have booked a place in the next round of the Europa League. On balance it was more than a fair result as over two legs Arsenal outplayed the Italian giants.
But the Welbeck moment certainly put an asterix on the game for Spurs fans.
Here is some of the best reaction from Twitter…
Özil against Watford was falling down when a gust of wind went past him. It was appalling. Welbeck yesterday was one of the worst dives
— Joe B ??????? (@JblincoTHFC) March 16, 2018
Only just seen the Welbeck dive, he must be embarrassed even appealing for that.
— Joshhh (@JJonesTHFC) March 16, 2018
— Harry Hotspur (@HarryHotspurWHL) March 15, 2018
If you had any doubt about how this country treats Dele Alli (one of its brightest prospects in years) look at the difference in how the media and in particular fans, are talking about the #Welbeck dive. ? #COYS #THFC
— Gary Ford (@Spursfordie) March 15, 2018
Imagine if this was @dele_official who did this and the media onslaught! Danny Welbeck you diving cheat! Hope the likes of @talkSPORT @GaryLineker @alanshearer to name a few subject Danny to the same treatment they have subjected Dele too this season! https://t.co/MXFMAkOGcN
— H (@LittleMissTHFC) March 15, 2018
— Lucas (@MoughtTHFC) March 15, 2018
Welbeck is a cheat end of. Ruined a good game.
— THFC (@RaoullyT69) March 15, 2018
Look how everyone destroys Dele over diving. No one will comment on Welbeck’s dive. Shocking! #THFC
— Harry Hotspur (@HarryHotspurWHL) March 15, 2018
— Steve Williams (@spurssteve69) March 15, 2018
Welbeck dives. Dele will be in trouble in the morning. #THFC
— Stephen Vincent (@StevieV14) March 15, 2018
If Dele Alli did what Welbeck just did?
— Billy Adams (@ThfcAdams) March 15, 2018
Victory in Milan, but is this another false dawn for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger?
Arsenal were triumphant in Milan despite their recent miserable form.
Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.
They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.
These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.
Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.
In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.
The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.
Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.
Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.
Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.
The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.
Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.
It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.
When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.
If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.
There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.
Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.
It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.
It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.
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