Arteta unsure over captaincy but accepts Arsenal need role models

By Jamie Smith 21 December 2019 6
Arteta unsure over captaincy but accepts Arsenal need role models

Mikel Arteta is yet to decide who will be his Arsenal captain but has challenged senior players to step forward and serve as role models.

Granit Xhaka was belatedly named Gunners skipper by Unai Emery this season but the midfielder was stripped of the armband after reacting angrily to his substitution during October's Premier League game against Crystal Palace.

Top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang succeeded Xhaka in the role - emerging from a much-criticised leadership team of five players - but new head coach Arteta, who was appointed Emery's successor on Friday, could change the captaincy again.

"I have to get there and get the feeling," he told reporters. "I don't want to make a decision because a decision doesn't have to be made. I want to see what they are doing at the moment and after that, slowly, we will make some decisions to help them.

"I think a lot of external things happened over the past few months that obviously has a knock-on effect on the team, on their relationships and the perception people have on them as a team, how together or not together they are. They have to be so united, that dressing room is untouchable.

"It's important what they are bringing to the table, those senior players, because we need to generate role models and people have to follow those leaders.

"In Barcelona, I was there and they had two or three [leaders] and they could educate almost the rest of them and create an environment and create a group that everybody wanted to follow and it's all about this.

"I think it is part of your nature. You are or you are not. You can tweak the character or the personality of a player or a person a little bit, but you are or you are not [a role model]."

Arteta agrees Arsenal will risk losing their best players if they miss out on Champions League qualification for the third season in a row, with the Gunners 10th in the Premier League.

"That's a consequence of what we have been talking about," he added. "If we can create and build a culture where everybody is accountable, we can bring some leadership into the team and some expectations and put some passion and clear direction into what we do. Then we create an identity. 

"If they feel part of that identity they will want to stay, as they will enjoy it. At the moment I feel as though they suffer a little bit. When you are suffering, sometimes you want to go away. When you enjoy, you want to be part of something.

"It means they have ambition and want to fight at the top. I want to use that attitude and say, 'Put it here for the team'. With an attitude like this, we will be closer to that step."

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Jamie Smith