By 90Min
September 29, 2019

ICYMI: Granit Xhaka has been made permanent Arsenal captain.

I'll spare you the 'he divides opinion' malarkey and cut to the chase. He doesn't deserve it. Not on what he's achieved with the club so far.

Monday, however, is his last chance.

Consider it a clean slate. It's not easy, but from this point on, let us banish the memories that remind us he's committed the most errors leading to goals of any outfield player in the Premier League since 2016. Let us forget his unwavering knack of needlessly flying into tackles. Let us forget his name is even Granit Xhaka.

From this point on, he will referred to as 'Captain' for the remainder of this piece.

That is how dedicated I am to actually liking him as a player. This is how desperate I am to proudly call Captain my 'captain' without flinching or needing wash my mouth out. And, as one of his biggest critics, that is a big statement. Believe me, it is.

As previously said, everything else is in the past. No memories, no mistakes. Nothing.

Instead, what is set to occur at Old Trafford is the captain of Arsenal Football Club will lead his side out at a stadium where the Gunners haven't won in the league since 2006.

On that day, a former hero in north London poked home the only goal to hand Arsene Wenger victory. A hero whose name now cannot be uttered at the Emirates Stadium without resulting in a few dozen eyes burning into the back of your head.

Alex Livesey/GettyImages

On that day, the goalscorer ploughed a lone furrow up front. Now, Captain must ensure he doesn't follow suit in what is already a crucial encounter so early into the campaign.

Heading into the clash with 11 points from six matches, victory could see Unai Emery's side jump up into third, while defeat sees Manchester United leapfrog the visitors on goals difference.

That is already a frightening prospect, but one the not so recent history would suggest is all-too likely to occur.

Unless, one man can stop them.


Steve Bardens/GettyImages

Arsenal's failures at Old Trafford have been long-standing. A whole 13 years of thumping losses and snatched draws have left a sour taste in the Gunners' faithful's mouths, with that sour taste sure to turn into an acrid one if the long trip north on Monday night proves fruitless. 

A notable point of reference during that barren spell has been the lack of leadership in the sides heading to the north-west.

Thierry Henry was absent on the day and unable to fill in as captain, but since that fateful afternoon a quick glance over at those who've worn the armband fails to tickle the tastebuds in a leadership sense.

William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have bared the burden since, but none have succeeded in averting the rotten run that has seen the home side take liberties against their capital city rivals on far too many occasions.

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However, preceding 2006 until 1988, two men held the mantle with consummate ease, bringing with it years of success that appear a mere distant dream to the current crop - Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams.

For the first time in many years, the away side are favourites. Not because they're an outstanding team on an imperious upward spiral. It's simply because United aren't good. Like, not at all. 

Furthermore, to compound that notion, they're wounded. Very wounded.

Riddled with injuries from back to front, Monday gives Arsenal the prime opportunity to head back into the top four, while finally giving the fans making the journey (and those who can't) something to shout about.

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While victory over United would result in the inevitable 'well, it's only 'cause United are sh*t' response, Captain has an opportunity to rephrase those sentiments around himself.

The response from Emery's announcement has been mixed at best. But now, in his first match as the 'official' leader, Captain couldn't have handpicked a better game to endear himself to supporters, thus beginning his tenure with a gift that has abandoned those very fans for so many years.

A new narrative is ready to be written.

Needing to lead by example, his role in the centre of the park is one of paramount importance. Against a beleaguered United outfit, bossing that area of the pitch will set the foundations from which the Gunners can launch their assaults on goal.

The fact the players made their backing of the Swiss known during the bizarre voting system Emery employed means he has won over his teammates. However, that has to be evident on the pitch. If Arsenal are under the cosh for the first 15 minutes, Captain needs to be the one to bark the orders and steady the ship, in what will be a raucous atmosphere.

Needing to put his body on the line, he must be prepared to do what is necessary for the team to win. That means keeping possession in the final third and finding the right pass, or in turn finding someone else who will, not ballooning an effort over from 40 yards.

Now is the time the seize the moment. The euphoria of the appointment should be enough to spark a man into life who, as I said, must now be seen as having a clean slate.

RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/GettyImages

What better way than to lead your side to victory at Old Trafford? What better way to say 'I am the captain of this club, and I deserve to be'?

Well, Captain, it's time to be the captain.

Xhaka is so divisive at 90min that, on Saturday, Nischal Schwager-Patel argued the case for the divisive midfielder. Read his piece on why the Arsenal skipper will prove his doubters wrong here.

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