The 28-year-old skipper and Belgian international was formerly Arsenal’s most reliable defender in the first few seasons since his arrival from Ajax in 2009.
But after being displaced from the team in March last year, Thomas Vermaelen has failed to win his place back.
The partnership in central defence of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny has been solid, reliable and consistent ever since and their fitness and form has prevented the captain from starting in the line up with any regularity – he lifted the FA Cup on Saturday but that may be his last duty as Arsenal captain as rumours persist that he may leave for pastures new.
So, who takes the armband? Currently Mikel Arteta is the vice-captain and the 32-year-old Spaniard has been a loyal and diligent servant for the Gunners since his arrival three years ago but Arteta is unlikely to feature as a regular first-team player for the next five years, especially if the club bring in a genuine defensive midfielder this summer.
You ideally want your captain on the pitch and, if possible, in terms of leadership, organization and communication, ordinarily one would pick a senior, experienced defender such as Per Mertesacker who, in my estimation, has all the attributes of a skipper.
At 29 years of age the big German centre-back is ideally suited to the role and his commendable performances at the back have been superb throughout most of the season. However, Mertesacker has only been at the club three years, as has Arteta, and perhaps the manager will want to give one of the younger academy graduates the responsibility – in years to come.
I suspect Jack Wilshere, now still only 22, is potential captain material but it may be too soon for the No.10 who is still cementing his place in the team after a number of spells out through injury.
In much the same situation is the Gunners’ man of the moment and the winning goal scorer on Saturday to claim the cup, Aaron Ramsey – the 23-year-old Welshman has been sensational this term and looks every bit the leader by example on the pitch but, as a personality, he is not particularly vocal or assertive.
Tomas Rosicky, of course, is now 33 and has been with the club for eight years but he is not a first-choice starter on a regular enough basis, nor is he an obvious candidate to lead the team when the going gets tough. Bacary Sagna is the ideal age, position and has been with the club eight years but he looks set to leave this summer and goalkeeper Wojceich Szczesny is still only 24 and has struggled with form in the past year, like the current captain.
If I were picking, I’d give the armband to Mertesacker without a second thought but I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsene Wenger opted to honour Rosicky or Arteta if Vermaelen goes this summer. The French coach is a big advocate of his policy and loyalty to his players and he rewards those he sees as servants to the club so I would expect it will be a choice between those three.