The captain of your team should be reserved for the most influential player in your side. He should be the one player who can rally the team in times of crisis and show great leadership on the pitch. Usually, these players would be one of the more senior members of the side who had greater experience than that of their peers. However, the recent spate of Premier League captains has put paid this traditionalist notion of what a captain should be and exposed the captain’s armband as little more than a title.
All of the other duties commonly associated with the captain’s role have been perpetuated by the iconic images of captains such as Bobby Moore and Roy Keane who have epitomised the leadership that we so readily associate with the captain position. But these days, the captain is used more as a political tool rather than a position of any real responsibility.
For example, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini decided to strip Kolo Toure of the captain’s armband at the beginning of the season and hand it to Carlos Tevez. This is in spite of the fact that Tevez had previously been vocal in his criticism of Mancini in relation to his training methods. Mancini’s reasoning behind his decision was a desire to see Tevez interact more with the squad and the captain’s armband would help facilitate this. Mancini’s decision is indicative of a need to pander to and massage the egos of the “top” players to ensure that they perform to the best of their ability by giving them an illusion of responsibility that they haven’t earned.
Captaincy can be also used as a means to instil confidence in a player that has otherwise been lacking. Arsene Wenger did this with Manuel Almunia when he handed the error-prone goalkeeper the armband in Cesc Fabregas’ absence. On paper, Alumunia doesn’t instantly strike me as captain material. He isn’t renowned for his communication skills as evidenced by the amount of goals Arsenal concede through set-pieces and crosses into the box and he hasn’t proved to be an authoritative leader during his time at Arsenal. While he is one of the more senior members in the Arsenal squad, the cynic in me is saying that Wenger’s decision to select Almunia as captain despite his lack of credentials has everything to do with increasing his goalkeeper’s confidence in the light of widespread criticism of Almunia in his time at the Emirates.
Tottenham’s pre-game build up for Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Brom was dominated by talk about who was going to captain the side in Michael Dawson’s absence. Harry Redknapp caused a bit of a commotion when he suggested that William Gallas was in the frame to claim the captain’s role at the Hawthorns. The possibility of giving William Gallas the captaincy after only a few weeks at the club is somewhat questionable. There has not been sufficient time for Gallas to establish a sufficient rapport and understanding with his new teammates for him to lead the side effectively. Add to that the fact that his last captain’s role ended with Gallas being stripped of the armband by Arsene Wenger due to his emotional, petulant behaviour and you can see why Gallas would not be an ideal choice.
The role of the captain has become somewhat emblematic in this country. However, the image of the captain as team leader has been diluted by the individuality that is becoming increasingly pervasive in the modern game as the captain’s role is becoming a hollow honour.
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