Is Odegaard Arsenal’s best captain since Patrick Vieira? Let’s analyse….

Leave it to my fellow Gooners to arrogantly make out what we have is better than the reality.

Martin Odegaard had a good loan spell at Arsenal and a very good season once he became a Gunner on a permanent basis.

On and off the pitch he carries himself with class and the 24-year-old is finally consistently performing at a level so many predicted when he broke onto the scene as a teenager.

Left organically the Norwegian would get all the credit he deserves.

Yet a section of our fan base always has to race ahead and get to the finish line.

So instead of waiting to see what our midfielder could achieve after one campaign with the armband some are claiming Odegaard to be our greatest captain since …… Patrick Viera!

I’ll then be called negative for breaking down how crazy it is to compare our skipper at this point with peers who took us to a Champions League Final, equally took part in title bids and who actually lifted trophies for the club.

Of course, it’s subjective in what makes a great captain. A dressing room can have leaders who never actually officially lead out the team.

Odegaard does many things well and is growing into the role, yet the truth is in his two years in England Arsenal’s mentality proved weak at ‘squeaky bum time’.

Whether it was trying to make top 4 or stay top of the table, both times Arsenal were crippled by the fear of failure and the pressure was too much for a young squad to handle.

That’s not a disgrace but if you’re going to call him a better captain than the other names on this list then I need proof of you digging your teammates out of adversity and over the line.

At home to Southampton, I saw that, he being the one man who demanded the ball and didn’t shy away.

Yet where was he at Anfield or London Stadium once the scores were level?


Then don’t say he’s our best captain since Vieira.

Let’s break this down ……

Was Odegaard a better captain then ……

Thierry Henry 2005-2007 – No

Not as clear cut as you might think as there were rumours that if there was ever a time Mr Wenger questioned Henry’s leadership qualities it was this period.

For years one of our biggest characters, who demanded the standards set to him by the likes of Adams, Keown, Dixon, etc , the striker seemed less comfortable leading once he lost the core of his experienced French connection.

From a marketing standpoint it made sense for the greatest player we ever had to be the face of a brand moving from Highbury to the Emirates.

On the pitch though, his manager was being forced to put his faith in youth meaning he could no longer perform at levels Henry was used to, while not being able to disclose the financial reasons for breaking up the Invincibles so soon.

He couldn’t tell his best talent that the club no longer had the ambition to compete but equally couldn’t judge a superstar having negative body language towards a youngster because Henry was a natural winner.

If anything, Henry’s legacy made him now too big for a youthful squad and inadvertently his presence started to undermine his boss.

The goal in Madrid, a hat-trick to say farewell to Highbury are all moments Odegaard hasn’t replicated.

All parties eventually accepted Henry had to move to Barcelona to get the Champions League he deserved.

Gallas 2007-2008 Yes

In many ways Gallas had the same issues as Henry.

He had come from an experienced dressing room used to a certain standard, and struggled when he realised he was no longer surrounded by leaders he was used to working with.

The difference is he wasn’t the icon that Henry was.

A young Fabregas and Van Persie would tolerate Henry shrugging his arms at them and having a sulk, because he was a legend.

A youthful squad now finding their feet were willing to stand up to Gallas, and there’s talk that this caused a divide, causing Mr Wenger to reconsider the captaincy.

Where Gallas went wrong was there was so much potential in our youngsters, they just needed the right guidance.

Where an Henry was correct to be concerned our targets had been reduced to finishing in the top 4, Gallas played for an Arsenal team who were top of the table come March 2008.

Everyone cites Saint Andrews the moment we bottled the title that year.

Yet the 2-2 draw meant we were still top with our destiny in our own hands. That’s what a leader would have been saying.

Instead, the defender’s response to Clichy conceding a stoppage time pen, instead of putting his arm round the youngster or comforting those shaken by Eduardo’s leg break, was to stage a one-man sit-down protest.

Tellingly the rest of the team left him sat there.

The centreback will argue it was this attitude that made him win what he did in his career.

Yet at this point he was being paid a lot of money to lead a young group.

Be frustrated if they are not dealing with the pressure yet the irony was, he was losing his head before anyone else did.

It was almost like he predetermined what was to happen.

Go look at how he talks to Theo Walcott at Stamford Bridge with the cameras watching to see my point.

Fabregas 2008-2011 No

Comparisons can be made with Odegaard and Fabregas in terms of a youngster leading by example, but just not having enough experience around to help him get Arsenal over the line.

You can’t yet compare Odegaard with Fabregas’s body of work. Fabregas by 24 had been playing consistently at a high level since a teenager.

Anyone who does is either not old enough to remember how great the Spaniard was, or are still angry he ended up winning the Prem he deserved at Stamford Bridge.

It’s hard to explain how good he was in this period, perhaps the best version.

He just couldn’t do it on his own and Mr Wenger’s biggest mistake was not surrounding him with more senior pros who could add game management.

Sadly, Fabregas quickly realised the limitations of our business model famously once demonstrating to an official the difference in strength and power Chelsea had.

It became heart vs head.

His heart wanted his aspirations to succeed at the Emirates, his head told him he had to return to Barcelona.

One of Mr Wenger’s biggest errors was not triggering a buy back clause when the player made it clear he wanted to live in London again.

Van Persie 2011-2012 – NO

I still don’t recall Arsenal owing so much to one captain as they did for Van Persie who almost single handedly fired one of the worst squads in our Prem history into the top three.

Anyone who doubts that is just bitter about him going to Manchester and his public letter essentially claiming the club had zero ambition.

10 years later still without a title, he was right?

This was the version of Arsenal where it took an 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford to convince our owners to spend a fraction of the money they had just received from selling Fabregas and Nasri.

It’s hard to keep your best players if that’s how you do business and at this point the armband had almost became a prop to keep our biggest stars.

Like Cesc, it would have been a travesty had Van Persie not ended up with a prem medal.

Vermaelen 2012-14 – Yes

There’s a cruel irony to Vermaelen’s time as Arsenal captain.

He had long shown the leadership qualities to help lead Arsenal through a difficult period while maintaining their top status.

Yet, by the time he officially had the armband he had suffered devastating injuries that made him no longer reliable.

He was fit enough to be on the bench when we ended our 9 year trophy drought, Arteta (captain that day at Wembley) sharing the honour of lifting the Cup together.

There is a reason Barcelona wanted him, but the sad truth was injuries meant the Belgian was at his best before he ever became our skipper.

Arteta 2014-2016 No

There’s not a huge list of inspirational performances from Arteta in an Arsenal shirt (he will admit his peak years were at Everton), yet you sense his contributions were more obvious to those who worked with him off the pitch and those who worked in the sport, hence why Pep snapped up him as his assistant.

Ex co-workers have lined up to say what a leader he was in North London and how there were signs he was a future manager. Theo Walcott recently credited Arteta with delivering the most inspirational speech of his career.

Theo explains Arteta (without Mr Wenger’s permission) took it upon himself to deliver some home truths to a squad struggling to make top 4 and how this moment proved a turning point in that season.

BFG 2016-18 Yes

I have to say yes simply because the BFG actually only played one game as our official captain …… the FA Cup Final!

It’s an incredible story, but also a sign of how the criteria was changing in terms of what Mr Wenger wanted from his skipper.

The Frenchmen knew the defender had a long-term injury when he gave him the armband, but clearly felt his leadership qualities could help off the pitch.

Like Arteta, ex co-workers have since spoken of his influence in all departments of the club.

It meant he had a job waiting for him in our academy once retired.

Koscielny 2018-19 Yes

At this point the armband was a bit of curse, with Koscielny given the honour only to be plagued by injury issues.

He had shown the qualities for the role in the previous 8 years, but an Achilles problem meant his training had to be managed and he could no longer play every few days.

Gooners would have accepted that of course. What they will find hard to forgive his how he forced a moved to Bordeaux and the video unveiling the transfer.

He will argue that the club had misled him, going back on promises not to price him out of a move back home.

Even so, while your being paid thousands of pounds a week, you get on that plane for pre-season.

Xhaka 2019- Yes

Xhaka was part of Unai Emery’s unsuccessful leadership group where the manager would have 4 or 5 captains so he could downplay that a midfielder not popular with some Gooners had been voted by his peers to get the official title.

Based purely on his time as captain it was a disaster, a few months after getting the gig he threw the armband to the floor and cupped his ears at his own fans, some of whom were cheering his substitution.

After refusing to agree to Emery’s request of an apology, all parties seemed content with the idea that the Switzerland captain would never play for us again.

The 30-year-old in fact won some over by sticking to his convictions while detailing the subject of abuse he and his family faced daily.

Arteta talked him into giving his Gunners career one last chance and it’s been evidenced what a natural leader Xhaka actually is.

Amazon’s All or Nothing Documentary put him over as the most vocal member of our dressing room.

A mistake to sell him.

Aubameyang 2019- 2021 Yes

Auba can’t be considered a good captain due to how his time in North London ended. Yet, it’s worth remembering all the focus before and after our last FA Cup win was a desperation for the striker to extend his contract.

Pictured with fast cars, at wrestling, dressed up as a super hero, a reputation for poor time-keeping in Germany and a heavy influence in the dressing room, it’s not like Arteta didn’t know who was signing a new deal.

Yet Arsenal didn’t learn their lesson from Ozil, paying someone over 30 over the odds knowing they had zero resale value.

Gooners will always be divided over if it’s okay for a manager to just wash hands of assets, or if it should be part of their job to get the best out the resources they inherit?

Not for the first or last time, Arteta authorised a talent to have their contract ripped up, after showing he was willing to have someone paid to sit at home.

We literally gave Auba to Barcelona. He would score 11 times in Spain while Eddie and Laca scored 4 between them.

That decision cost us a place in the top 4 but long term sent the message to the players that the Kroenkes will back their manager.

Lacazette 2021-21 Yes

The irony being that after regretting the contract extension with Aubameyang, the Gunners then turned to a player they were allowing to leave as a free agent.

Laca finally had what he wanted, a chance to be our focal point.

No one can ever doubt his professionalism, but it seemed odd to put trust in being fired into the top 4 by a man who knew he wouldn’t be around months later.

Why would Laca care what European competition we played in when he wouldn’t be here to experience it?

Failed to score a single goal as our captain yet some Gooners defend Arteta in not buying a replacement for Auba.

So, maybe Odegaard is not quite our best captain since Vieira, just another stupendous comment!

Let me know in the comments though your thoughts.


Tags Fabregas Gallas Henry odegaard Van Persie


  1. When thinking of the reason the great Patrick went after Gary Neville in the tunnel and how Roy Keane went back after him, it is clear the role of captain is more ceremonial nowadays compared to the.

    It is my opinion that past generation footballers were driven first and foremost by their love of the game, true passion for football. Thats why it was a pride to be named the captain because and they did proud the role. It was an honor to present the national team, a dream come true to play for their boyhood clubs. The money was the result of that.

    Compared to this generation footballers who money comes first and foremost and probably last. No passion, no caring, no pride. It’s money, money and money.

    Old generation were fans and players. Current generation it’s just a job. Win or lose it doesn’t matter.

    1. Hit the nail
      On the head HH ,I’ve read silly comments over the last few weeks suggesting captains do not need to be vocal ,no they don’t but past captains actually had pride playing for the badge ,that aggressiveness that passion ,where are the Vierias ,Bergkamps and Adams these days ?
      Oh i know they are now Obsolete because the game as turned into a no contact sport where players care more for their hair and image.
      Nothing will ever compare to that era IMO ,some of the best teams and players I’ve witnessed in my years as supporter of football in general not just Arsenal

      1. Really glad you see things in the same light DK. You could also see real pain from them when they lost games something which can’t be said for the current stars.

    2. Far too much a generalisation with not proper thought given to the many differing types of individuals who play, both nowadays and in the long ago.
      It is foolish to lump all folk together by their generation alone and it is untrue too.
      Your last line in particular is so foolishly black and white and life just IS NOT like that!

      1. You are going to find its in everything not only football. Revenue is astronomical nowadays but quality leaves a lot to be desired.

        In movies, books, games, music you name them.

        Just as an example I like classic films a lot and the quality in both acting and stories is astounding compared to current ones which looks pretty but empty even though now and then there is quality.

        The focus has been on making and maintaining image and blind following in place of producing quality product.

        This focus on revenue produce things which are not memorable and does not stand the test of time.

  2. I agree with most of your list except for Granit and Koscielny. Some wore the armband but I don’t consider them captains namely Aubameyang, Martesacker and Lacazette.

    Of them natural and true captains were Vieira, Fabregas and RVP.

  3. For me Odergaard should not be our captain. He isn’t in the mould that i like. Great captains LEAD!!!!! Yes Odergaard is a team player, yes he is a calming influence but that doesn’t make him a great captain. He is our captain and we should support and respect that. When he has won something and LEAD the team to success, we can call him a great captain, however he manages the role. Until then he is just our captain, nothing more nothing less.

  4. Odegaard is a captain like none of the others mentioned.
    I see him rallying the fans, incorporating them as part of the team and recognising the importance of their part in any success.
    I do not see him as a leader of men, shouting out instructions, or standing up to opponents.
    We had Tony Adams and Patrick Vieria, along with Frank McClintock who lead by that kind of mentality.

    That doesn’t mean he’s not a good captain, just a different kind of captain and I love the way he goes around the ground at the end of a game and applauds the fans, while encouraging them during said game.

    Biggest problem for me, is that Tony, Patrick and Frank never disappeared in a game, the same cannot be said of Martin… for the moment at least.

  5. Agree with the article, but i do think it’s worth mention that odegaard is growing into the role. When he got the captaincy, I thought it was just because he’s very professional and we didn’t have a better option – I do see him taking the ball more often in bigger games and making things happen now. I don’t think he’s a natural captain, but i see now why it was given to him and I think he’s getting better at it.

  6. The question of whether Odegraad is the best captain since Vieira is a bit premature. He is doing a ok job but we now have a more natural leader in Rice who I would have as the captain should the position become available for whatever reason.

  7. In the past 35 years we have had only two REAL captains, Tony Adams and Patrick Viera both true leaders. Since Patrick none of our ‘captains’ were or are true leaders, and that includes Odergaard. But at long last we do have a proven and natural leader in Declan Rice and I would be shocked (using Merse’s favourite word) if he wasn’t given the armband next season. Personally I would give it to him right now and free up Odergaard to do what he does best, create without the added responsibility. Rice has the potential to become the next ‘Tony Adams’ imo – wouldn’t that be something else?

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