Is the Arsenal captain’s armband really cursed? Xhaka and Ozil suggest soNovember 1, 2019
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With all the talk over Granit Xhaka recently, going back through the annals it would appear the curse of the Arsenal captaincy is not only very real, but actually extends back into mid-2000s.
In fact, things started to head south right about the point when Thierry Henry — an irreproachable club legend, or so you’d think — assumed the armband from Patrick Vieira ahead of the 2005-06 season.
It’s only been downhill from there.
Thierry Henry: 2005-2007
Thierry Henry was in charge as Arsenal lost the Champions League final in 2006, then left for Barcelona. Martin Rickett – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images
After flirting with Barcelona for over a year, the final straw came when the Gunners lost to them in the Champions League final. A year later, Henry cut the cord in the summer of 2007 and departed for Camp Nou having only scored 10 goals for the Gunners during the previous, injury-riddled campaign.
William Gallas: 2007-08
William Gallas threw a strop after a 2-2 draw with Birmingham and was eventually stripped of the captaincy. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Gallas inherited the Arsenal captaincy for the 2007-08 season but only lasted until November the following campaign, when his infamous on-pitch tantrum during a game against Birmingham City cost him the armband.
Arsenal were five points clear at the top of the Premier League going into the match but Gallas’ childish strop (over the concession of a late penalty at St Andrews) became symbolic of their subsequent title collapse.
Cesc Fabregas: 2008-2011
Cesc Fabregas was an Arsenal hero before an injury a few months into reign, then he joined Barcelona. And then Chelsea. Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
With Gallas stripped of the captaincy in the wake of his ill-advised sit-in, Fabregas took over on Nov. 24, 2008.
In fairness, the Spanish midfielder lasted three seasons in office before he tore an ACL, went on strike and then left to join Barcelona under something of a cloud following months of open flirtation with his boyhood side.
Robin van Persie: 2011-12
Robin van Persie rewarded Arsenal for making him captain by leaving and winning the league with Man United the next season. GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images
Van Persie stepped into the captaincy wake left by Fabregas for the 2011-12 season where he remained for precisely one year before signing for bitter rivals Manchester United, with whom he promptly scored a bucketload of goals and won the league.
Thomas Vermaelen: 2012-14
Thomas Vermaelen’s injury issues haunted him while captain. David Price/Arsenal FC/Getty Images
Vermaelen was the next poor sap in line to take the armband, though a relentless bout of multiple and repetitive injuries put paid to the Belgian defender’s tenure after two hopelessly stymied seasons.
Mikel Arteta: 2014-16
Mikel Arteta retired and left for a job at Man City after getting the armband. Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
Arteta stepped into the breach for the 2014-15 season but again almost instantly succumbed to injury, making six league starts in his first year as captain and then none at all in his second.
Per Mertesacker: 2016-18
Who knows how long Per Mertesacker’s career could have been if he hadn’t been captain. Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images
The injury hex continued into 2016-17 and 2017-18 as poor old Mertesacker was made captain. The big German defender was restricted to just four league starts over the course of the two prevailing seasons, although he did end on a high with an FA Cup win before retiring.
Laurent Koscielny: 2018-19
Laurent Koscielny was a fine club servant, until he got the armband. David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Koscielny was saddled with the Gunners’ captaincy for 2018-19, a tumultuous season that saw the France international (who had been at the club for nine years) ultimately refuse to play before cementing his exit in perhaps the most ungrateful manner possible.
It was also interesting that Unai Emery’s “captain’s group” of four other players included Aaron Ramsey (wound down his contract to join Juventus on a free), Petr Cech (retired to play ice hockey), Mesut Ozil (currently frozen out of the team) and Granit Xhaka (see below).
Granit Xhaka: 2019-20
The armband has increased the ire directed at Granit Xhaka by his own fans. Alex Morton/Getty Images
Xhaka was not a popular choice of captain in terms of fan support, and they let the Switzerland international know that after the team blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Crystal Palace recently. Xhaka reacted badly to the boos and revealed his reasons for his actions a few days later.
This season’s captain’s group also includes Ozil (see above) and we can only assume that Gunners fans are incredibly concerned about what lies in store for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Hector Bellerin, who make up the other three.
Woe betide them all, and whichever jinxed soul next incurs the bane of that wretched elasticated accessory.
Shaka Hislop explains what Granit Xhaka got wrong in his apology to fans for his actions vs. Crystal Palace.Novak Djokovic challenges Ronaldo and Mbappe
It’s taken over a month, but Novak Djokovic has finally issued his response to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s “Matrix challenge” video.
It began with Ibrahimovic tagging his friend Djokovic (as well as Paul Pogba, plus his agent Mino Raiola and UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov) in an Instagram post in which the Swede demonstrated his skills in super slow-motion and challenging them to do likewise.
Just 35 days later, Djokovic has replied with a video of his own in which he attempts the Matrix challenge but using a tennis ball rather than a football.
The results are rather tremendous.
If you watch closely, you can just about see that Djokovic loses control of the ball mid-way through and replaces it with another from his pocket — though the sleight of hand is undoubtedly impressive.
The tennis star also tagged Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe in his video, so keep your eyes peeled.Brazilian pastor baptises Coutinho in the bath
Brazilian pastor Tiago Brunet has been paying a visit to Munich and part of his trip involved seeing Bayern star Philippe Coutinho …
… and baptising the midfielder in a bath.
The caption translates as “A soul is worth more than the whole world.”Tevez reveals Cristiano Ronaldo gym dedication
As if further proof were needed, Carlos Tevez has revealed just how obsessed Cristiano Ronaldo is when it comes to his training regime.
Recalling their time together at Manchester United, Tevez told a little anecdote about the morning he attempted to beat Ronaldo to the gym at Carrington.
“If we trained at nine in the morning, he [Ronaldo] was already there when you arrived at eight. If you arrived at seven thirty, he would already be there,” said Tevez. “I said, ‘how can you trick this guy?’ One day, I arrived at six in the morning to do it and he was already there. Half asleep but he was there!”
Honestly, given Ronaldo’s career-long commitment to maintaining zero percent body fat, we’re not remotely surprised.England’s magic numbers
A full 147 years after their first, England are set to play their 1,000th men’s international match this month when they face Montenegro in a Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley on Nov. 14.
The FA will mark the momentous occasion by adding “legacy numbers” to the kits of the players who feature.
Every single one of the 1,244 players to have ever played for England since their first international fixture will be assigned a legacy number to denote their place in the grand Three Lions lineage.
Robert Barker, England’s goalkeeper in football’s first international match in 1872, is in at No.1 while Tyrone Mings, England’s most recent debutant, is included at No. 1,244.
For the record, manager Gareth Southgate is No. 1071.
Each player taking to the field against Montenegro will have their personal legacy number printed beneath the England crest (though the digits will move to the inner collar for all future fixtures).
All former England captains, 50+ cap internationals and 1966 World Cup winners have been invited to the game, where attendees will be presented with their own legacy number.
Viv Anderson has also been invited to Wembley in recognition of him being England’s first black international at senior level.