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Ranking Arsenal's 5 best captains in the 21st century

Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry
Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry
Sushan Chakraborty
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At the start of the century, Arsenal were one of the most energetic and exciting clubs in the English Premier League. The north Londoners wanted to make waves in Europe, and thanks to the great Arsene Wenger, they certainly made heads turn.

Over the last five years, Arsenal have fallen a lot behind the competition. Not only are they anonymous in Europe, but they have also been reduced to a mid-table club in the Premier League. The Gunners need some inspiration to bounce back and a captain who can lead by example.

Today, we are taking a look at five Arsenal players who led the way, even before getting the armband.

Here are the top five captains Arsenal have had this century:


#5 Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta in Urawa Red Diamonds v Arsenal
Mikel Arteta in Urawa Red Diamonds v Arsenal

Current Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was a player of sheer class and elegance, the perfect player to represent Wenger’s values on the pitch.

After establishing himself as a star in the Premier League, Arteta moved to north London from Everton in 2011. Following the departure of Robin van Persie in 2012-13, Arteta became the club’s vice captain.

His inspirational midfield play sealed Arsenal’s 17th-consecutive top-four finish that season and was chosen as the club’s fourth-best player for his contributions.

🔙 Mikel Arteta believes that it is time to welcome Arsene Wenger back to @Arsenal! https://t.co/eeqvijxpWp

Arteta won the armband permanently in the 2014-15 season and immediately led Arsenal to the FA Community Shield.

Unfortunately, the rise of new talents reduced the captain’s game-time and he eventually called it a day at the end of the 2015-16 campaign.


#4 Robin van Persie

Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League
Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League

Thanks to his controversial move to Manchester United in 2012-13, Arsenal fans don't give Robin van Persie the respect he had rightfully won. They see him as a player who abandoned his side in times of need and was ultimately rewarded for his 'betrayal'.

Van Persie joined Arsenal from Feyenoord in 2004 as a young, versatile left-winger with an eye for goal. Arsene Wenger took the player under his wing and successfully turned him into one of the most vicious forwards in football.

How Van Persie switched from an Arsenal legend to a United legend is one for the books. Happy to be among the few to witness it.

Van Persie not only scored for fun at Arsenal, but he was also always there to pick up his teammates after conceding a goal. His commitment eventually made him vice-captain and later captain, following Cesc Fabregas’ departure ahead of the 2011-12 season.

The Gunners were not in the best of form that season, but Van Persie scored 30 goals in the Premier League. Thanks to his Golden Boot-winning haul, he became Arsenal’s eighth all-time leading scorer with 132 goals.

#3 Cesc Fabregas

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League
Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League

Arsenal have had the good fortune of nurturing many midfielders over the years. A La Masia alumnus, Cesc Fabregas has to be one of the most talented individuals of the lot.

Fabregas joined Arsenal’s academy in 2003, hoping to get more opportunities in north London than Barcelona. Wenger was quick to realize the youngster’s sky-high potential and unexpectedly made him a part of the playing XI in October 2003.

Aged 16 years and 177 days, Fabregas became the youngest-ever Arsenal first-team player when he came on in a League Cup tie against Rotterdam.

#Throwback 2004 Cesc Fabregas & Robert Pires in the tunnel at Highbury 💕 #Arsenal #PremierLeague https://t.co/NPf0MJurBn

Fabregas grew into a versatile central midfielder over the next few years and eventually became the team’s best player. In November 2008, Fabregas got the captain’s armband after William Gallas.

Arsenal did not win any silverware during his time as the club’s captain, but he regularly put in impressive shifts for his team.

After eight seasons at Arsenal, Fabregas moved back to Barcelona in 2011.


#2 Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry in Arsenal v Portsmouth
Thierry Henry in Arsenal v Portsmouth

Thierry Henry, who is arguably the best player Arsenal have ever had, was captain for only a single year at the Emirates. Fortunately, the Frenchman did not need the armband to provide and to win matches for his team.

Henry was the undisputed pride of Arsene Wenger and his favorite player. Under Wenger, Henry turned into the monster of a forward and the admiration they had for one another was tangible.

Henry was a quick, two-footed player who was an excellent reader of the game. Not only could he score outrageous goals, but he also created chances for his teammates.

🇫🇷 Thierry Henry – The greatest football player in Premier League history ⚪️🔴 #AFC https://t.co/MhWTjkFjID

Henry was a proud member of the Invincibles in 2003-04 and captained the Arsenal side that played in the Champions League final in 2006. Henry scored 228 goals for Arsenal, becoming the club’s leading scorer.


#1 Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira in Liverpool v Arsenal
Patrick Vieira in Liverpool v Arsenal

Patrick Vieira may not have been as flashy as some of the names on this list, but he surely knew how to lead. Vieira has been Arsenal’s best captain this century and deservedly so.

Vieira moved to the club in 1996 and quickly established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet. He was an aggressive box-to-box midfielder who was equally adept in attack and defense.

The 1998 World Cup winner got the captain’s armband in 2002 and officially led the Gunners for three seasons. Under Vieira, Arsenal completed the 2003-04 campaign without a single defeat, becoming the only invincible Premier League winners in history.

In this week back in 1997 Patrick Vieira scored a wondergoal as Arsenal beat Man Utd 3-2 https://t.co/NtcfAksu7C

Viera’s last appearance was in the 2005 FA Cup final. The Frenchman fittingly scored the winning penalty against Manchester United and won his sixth and final trophy at Arsenal.

Edited by Samya Majumdar
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