Arsenal

What Saka said to Smith Rowe after his goal as Arteta outlines Arsenal’s next challenge

Lacazette the leader

The hangover from Mikel Arteta’s decision to strip Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was still pretty raw going into Arsenal’s game against West Ham.

The 32-year-old had eventually been relieved of his duties after his latest “disciplinary breach,” and was omitted from selection for Wednesday night’s match in order to allow him time to recover from the news.

As soon as the story broke questions began circling social media over who exactly would be the Gabon international’s successor as skipper.

Gabriel, Kieran Tierney and Martin Odegaard were the names who seemed to garner the most support among fans on social media, but as it was Arteta chose not to name any one person in particular.

“Well we have the leadership group and we have different players who have been nominated to be captain, in the last game it was Laca, we had had Granit who has been captain as well, so we will follow that,” he said.

“It is a really unpleasant situation and it is not the moment to make any rash decision. That leadership group is really strong, it is the one that communicates with myself and the coaching staff and with the club in a really strong and clear way and we are going to continue that.

“That is one of the decisions we make, to make that group a little bit better and try to educate them and try to get the right feedback all the time and build the trust and a strong culture around the club.

“It is working really well so we will continue to do that.”

This does make sense as Alexandre Lacazette is the club’s vice captain and by-passing him in selection the new permanent holder of the role would likely have risked alienating another experienced member of the squad.

The Frenchman wore the armband on Wednesday as he has done on several occasions in Aubameyang’s absence in recent seasons and put in a performance befitting of the role.

A captain’s job is largely ceremonial when you boil it down to the technicalities, but when it comes to things like putting pressure on the referee, talking to younger players and protecting teammates, few are more proficient in the Arsenal squad than Lacazette.

This was on full display against West Ham as he charged over to remonstrate with Anthony Taylor after Vladimir Coufal had put his forearm across the face of Tierney, ultimately leading the Czech defender to receive his first yellow of the night.