Since its formation in 1886, Arsenal Football Club has grown to be one of the most consistently successful teams in England, winning 39 Major honours along the way.
Naturally, much of the success was a direct result of managerial prowess. However, Captaincy in Football plays an integral role in the triumphs of any team. Not only do they need to be passionate about the club and its history, but they also need to get the job done on the field of play when the going gets tough.
They had real love and passion for Arsenal, and visibly put themselves on the line to secure victory and success for the Club.
Various Arsenal Captains have fit the bill over the clubs vast 128 year history - and I’ve selected five of the very best.
1. Tom Parker
The first man to ever lift the FA Cup and for Arsenal, was Tom Parker - in 1930. The centre back was signed by Herbert Chapman in 1926, and went on to make 172 consecutive first-team appearances, a club record that still stands today. Parker helped Arsenal to reach the 1927 FA Cup Final, only to suffer defeat at the hands of a capable Cardiff side.
However, three years later Tom Parker returned to Wembley to set the record straight, leading Arsenal’s win over Huddersfield. A year later, Parker cemented his position as an Arsenal great by Skippering the side to its first ever League title in 1931.
Tom Parker Captained Arsenal during an exciting period, helping in the quest for their first FA and League honours, under the guidance of Chapman. The late twenties and early Thirties was a time of transformation for Arsenal, and Tom Parker clearly played his part as Skipper.
2. Frank Mclintock
Under the guidance of Bertie Mee, Mclintock’s career changed when he was converted from midfield to centre back in 1967, undertaking the Captaincy in the process. After suffering two separate League Cup Final defeats in 1968 and 1969, he led Arsenal to a 1970 Fairs Cup Final victory.
Just one year later, Mclintock Captained Arsenal to the Club’s first League and Cup double. With three major trophies in just two years, Mclintok had Skippered Arsenal right back into the elite. He also oversaw another FA Cup Final in 1972, which ended in defeat to Leeds United.
Frank was an influential player both on the pitch and in the dressing room. In total, he Skippered Arsenal for six years, reaching four separate Cup finals, and lifting three major honours for the club.
3. Pat Rice
After joining the club as an apprentice in 1964, Pat Rice went on to become one of the Arsenal’s most loyal servants. After years of being a reserve player, Pat worked himself into the side which went on to win the 1971 ‘double’ led by Frank Mclintock.
He became Captain himself in 1977, leading Arsenal to four Cup Finals between 1978 and 1980. The right back lifted the FA Cup at Wembley in 1979, and led Arsenal to the UEFA Cup Winners Cup Final in 1980.
However, Pat’s service and passion for Arsenal didn’t end there. After spending four years at Watford, Pat Rice returned to Arsenal in 1984 as a Youth coach. He remained there successfully for 12 years, before eventually becoming assistant manager to Arsene Wenger. H eventually retired in 2012, having spend 44 years of his life with the club.
4. Tony Adams
Referred to as Mr. Arsenal, Tony Adams dedicated his entire Footballing career to The Gunners. He became Arsenal’s youngest ever captain in 1988- aged just 21 years and 82, eventually leading the Club to nine major trophies, including League titles in three different decades.
Despite facing personal troubles, Tony was the optimization of leadership on the pitch, bringing the best out of his team-mates and putting himself on the line time and time again for the Club he so dearly loved and fought for.
After fourteen years as Skipper, and nine major honours, Tony finally retired in 2002, leaving behind a legacy of aggressive leadership and defending. His statue resides outside of the Emirates Stadium - and for good reason.
5. Patrick Vieira
In 2002, following the retirement of Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira took over as Club Captain. He was already a fan favourite, impressing the Arsenal faithful since his displays in 1996.
Patrick made history by becoming Arsenal’s first ever foreign captain. He led Arsenal with distinction, lifting the FA Cup in 2003 before Skippering The Invincibles in the 2003/04 season which followed. At this time, Patrick was probably the Premier League’s finest midfielder, helping Wenger’s Arsenal become a major force in England and Europe once more.
Unfortunately, Patrick now plays a role at Manchester City, which - along with his behaviour whilst playing professionally, has irked some fans. Nevertheless, Vieira led Arsenal through the most successful, famous season in its history, showing immense leadership qualities in the process.
The Lost Legacy of Arsenal Captains
The five names mentioned above were not only talented players, but also formidable leaders. It’s easy to see why Arsenal were so successful under the leadership of such players. [quote_left]”Unfortunately, Captaincy today - especially for Arsenal, has lost is lustre.”[/quote_left]
However, Captaincy today - especially for Arsenal, seems to have lost its lustre.
Instead of empowering the leaders within the squad, the Captain’s armband seems to be handed to those with the largest transfer values and the finest first touch.
Gone are the days of Tony Adams & Patrick Vieira dragging their team through Footballing battles. Their immense passion for the cause was always apparent. Unfortunately, today, the modern Captain seems tame compared to such heroes of the past.
However, most great Arsenal Captains emerged after periods of relative dips in the Club’s overall performance. Perhaps then, we are about to witness the emergence of another name worthy of being added to the above list. Here’s hoping.