Where have Arsenal’s ‘leaders’ gone now the pressure is on?

The Gunners most critiical pundit, Gary Neville, has identified four senior players at Arsenal who he believes are responsible for the team’s recent dip in form. The Gunners had a promising start to the Premier League season, but their momentum has significantly slowed down in recent weeks, allowing Manchester City to catch up in the title race.

The team surrendered a two-goal lead at Anfield and drew with relegation-threatened teams West Ham and Southampton, which only weakened their grip at the top of the league. Their defeat to Manchester City further paved the way for the Cityzens to be left in the driving seat to retain their title.

Neville spoke on The Overlap, saying that the Gunners that the team’s poor run of form at such a decisive point in the season is due to the failures of senior players and a lack of leadership.

He identified that senior talents are not stepping up and taking responsibility during games. He highlighted that Arsenal’s issues stem from a lack of leadership on and off the pitch, and that the team’s struggles are not solely the manager’s fault. Neville emphasized that for Arsenal to remain competitive in the Premier League, their senior players need to start performing at a higher level and take accountability for the team’s results.

‘I look at Martin Odegaard, fantastic professional. Oleksandr Zinchenko, great professional. But when you actually get to the highest pressurised moments in the biggest matches in the crux of the season, are they leaders then?

‘Arsenal’s senior players, Partey, Zinchenko, Odegaard, in the most difficult period – when those younger players like Saka and Martinelli needed that guidance, Jesus needed telling to stop running around and just stand up front and be really disciplined in how you play – they didn’t impact the rest of their teammates on the pitch, I don’t believe.

‘In fact, they contributed to the difficulties they were having in the matches.

‘Xhaka at Anfield [referring to the incident with Trent Alexander-Arnold], Partey’s performances in the last few games, I think Zinchenko gave a goal away in one game as well – the Liverpool game and maybe West Ham as well – and Odegaard had probably his most difficult game as well against Manchester City.

‘And then if you think of the huddle that Zinchenko did [against Southampton] and then Odegaard came over and said, “Break up”.

‘So those four players that are the leaders in that team have not been able – at the moment those younger players needed it – to really pull them together and keep them calm and composed. That to me has been apparent these last few weeks.’

It is very hard to disagree with Neville’s assessment, as Xhaka’s hot headedness has returned in the latest pressure games, Zinchenko’s and Partey’s form seems to have taken a dive, while Odegaard’s influence has reduced drastically on the field of play.

These player are supposed to be the leaders, and it is beginning to look like they have crumbled as the pressure on each game has increased. Is there something going wrong behind the scenes, or are they smply not the leaders we expected them to be?


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  1. Reality is that it was easy to say “this and that” when we were flying. We had a solid 1st half of the season, which is great but not enough. Real character shines through when times are tough, I don’t see much of that now.

  2. The leaders in the field can do nothing if the team’s tactic has been deciphered by the opposition. This is why we need someone to win the ball upfront for his teammates as plan ‘B’, when plan ‘A’ becomes ineffective in the second half of the game

    1. Tactics are of course very important, but leaders will demand we find a better way to counter the opposition, not just accept it or hope things will change on their own. We didn’t seem to work harder when things went against us – that’s troubling.

      1. In my opinion, it’s the manager’s job to find other ways, when the game becomes difficult to handle

  3. I think this word “leader” is a cliche. They are all adults who should understand what is needed. True Odegaard seems almost too nice and quiet to be the captain, but I’m not sure what a captain can really do to make any thinking player do what is necessary at any given time. Sorry if that sounds pedantic. I never needed a captain to make me play better. Pride was enough.

  4. Arsenal has hit a brick wall due to one main reason, the lack of adequate metal strength, Wenger use to stress the need and its importance.

    But Arsenal must clear the deck and strengthen the spine of the team once and for all, no more players we haven’t herd of or so call hidden jem.

    Three areas Arsenal must strengthen in the summer before the visit to MetLife in the big Apple.

    Top striker in the mould of Vlohovic.
    Mobile midfielder in the mould of Caicedo
    Top center back in the mould of Sutalo.

    But from the look of things Arsenal may need an injection of two genuine midfielders to keep company with the big boys

  5. The team (including senior players) are drilled or coached into performing like robots, but when the crap hits the fan, seniors players are bullied by pundits like Neville for lack of leadership.

    Can’t have it boys ways. Arteta doesn’t like players who think for themselves. It’s either the Arteta way or the highway…we know very well.

    1. Pundits are best ignored. They talk so much utter, gormless rubbish I often wonder if they’re just clones and the real ex player is sitting at home somewhere…

  6. Leaders should start at management lvl ,unfortunately that’s been lacking and looks to have taken an affect on the players ,no confidence that this will change with Arteta in charge unless large sums of money is spent (already half a billion )all this talk of “atleast this is progress” seems to be skirting over the problem 2 seasons in a row bottling a good position.
    Dans article asking if our players are world class earlier ,maybe should have added our manager to hutch is what a few of us had worry’s about .

  7. The role of the captain is often overlooked, or worse just becomes a ‘roy of the rovers’ thing where the most glamorous players are given the armband. His/her role is too ensure the managers tactics and assignments are carried out, drive the team on, and maintain discipline. All the best Captains do this. It’s also far easier for a Captain who’s a defender to do this. The best ‘I’ve played with all were, driving the team forward, and organising when they needed to defend. The best at professional level tend to be too. Giving the armband to forwards is a waste of time, you simply don’t want them drifting too far back, and they need to, to do the job properly. Midfield players can be equally good, as long as they’re defensive midfielders. Again, you don’t want someone you need to be surging forward, worrying about about anything bar what’s in front of them.

    Of course this is all just an opinion. I’m sure there have been competent forward captains. Just can’t think of that many offhand.

    As evgunner says though, it really doesn’t matter how many on field leaders you have if players aren’t putting in their shift. I hated being beaten. Even more so when I didn’t feel I’d played well. It’ll come as no surprise to many here I was a vocal player, as a centre back I liked to encourage people and not let heads drop. Anyone can do it.

    That’s why it’s so disturbing when you see Arsenal collectively letting their heads drop, and instead of rallying, turning into headless chickens. Why wasn’t anyone giving a shout? Why was odegaard going round geeing them all up? Why didn’t one of the centre halfs give the rest of the defence and midfield a roasting for inviting pressure?

    When you see the top Captain’s, they are doing just that. Getting the players going, shouting instructions. Instead we go very quiet when things are going wrong. Odegaards a good player, buts hes young, quiet, and perhaps not the man to be giving a verbal rocket when players heads are dropping. Perhaps a fit, focused, partey? Ben White?

    1. Marge we would be next to each other then as I played left or right back. I’m a bit surprised that Joe S has mentioned Tierney as a skipper, although I’ve heard that suggestion before. Tierney seems as sweet and quiet as Odegaard from where I’m standing. You see we all have so many different views that there will always be disagreement on this planet. It’s the nature of things. Earlier today there was so much uncalled for discord following Dan’s post that I’m sure we’d be a laughing stock to outsiders.

      1. I remember after one game we lost David Luiz was yucking it up with our opponents and the camera caught Tierney verbally upset and giving Luiz an earful. His bod language and shouting didn’t suggest he was approving of Liuz’s behavior after that lost.

        Don’t recall Vieira being kind or coddling after a poor performance and loss.

        Not saying we need a tyrant as captain, but perhaps a tougher nut who calls out teammates and ensures they are held accountable.

    2. One other thing about the TV pundits. These days I fast forward MOTD highlights to avoid their inane ramblings. All I want to do is watch the matches and decide for myself what is what. Don’t need to hear their drivel (although you’re hearing mine now). Most of them just bore me to tears with their repetitive claptrap.
      As for SKY, I will not mention that ex ManU fullback’s name. He hated us when he was a player and deep down he still does. Called us desperate the other day in a particularly scoffing, sneering way. He’s supposed to be neutral as a broadcaster.
      I’ve always got time for Paul Merson though, because he makes me laugh, in a good way. Tim Sherwood talks alot of sense.

  8. Many of us always believed that Tierney would be natural heir to the captaincy until for one reason or another he has spent more time on the bench than on the field. I have no problem with Odegaard being captain. I can’t see anyone else there at the moment. I think captain’s role on the field should be to inspire their team by showing the way and giving everything to set an example. They do not need to be a second tactician like a rugby number 9 or an American football quarterback. However playing like a leader is where certain players in the Arsenal team have failed to step up. Our ” experienced players” talk post match about the younger players lacking cojones or not having the heart to handle the pressure but had done nothing themselves during the game to lead by example.

    1. Fair comments

      From my own point of view it depends on whether seniority comes with age only. Xhaka is senior by virtue of his age, his time at Arsenal and he was our captain.

      At Arsenal it’s a bit woolly after that. Most of the others are 25 ish and below. Odegaard who in this article is classed as senior is still only 24. I agree that he makes a good captain. I was at the Palace game and Odegaard was exemplary

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