The captaincy situation at Chelsea has come under scrutiny by fans this season, with some demanding the club to appoint a new captain. With Gary Cahill likely to leave this summer, and Cesar Azpilicueta struggling to prove his worth as a leader, who do Chelsea fans think should wear the armband next season?
A Chelsea team without a natural leader is hard to imagine. The first decade under Roman Abramovich’s ownership provided a generation of potential captains, but the current Chelsea team lack anyone of note who could stand up and be counted.
The situation was epitomised by Kepa Arrizabalaga’s reluctance to obey manager Maurizio Sarri’s orders in the Carabao Cup final earlier this year. While Kepa’s teammates watched on in shock at his actions, fans were crying out for somebody to take charge of the ugly scenes.
Countless Chelsea players from a decade ago would never have let the situation transpire. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Michael Ballack, and arguably more, would have ensured everything was dealt with swiftly and efficiently. However, with no one taking responsibility, Chelsea’s impressive performance on the pitch was marred by an incident that did not need to come to fruition.
The current Chelsea team look lost in big games. It is unlikely club captain Gary Cahill will be at Stamford Bridge next season, and with star man Eden Hazard’s potential move to Real Madrid looking closer than ever, we asked our readers on Twitter (@TheChelseaEcho) who they think should be the club captain.
Over 5,500 people voted in the poll, and the results show that almost half of our readers think Antonio Rudiger should be the club captain. The German defender finished ahead of regular matchday captain Azpilicueta, who has rapidly declined in the eyes of many fans.
Rudiger is widely regarded as Chelsea’s best defender and one of the most consistent players at the club. There are two primary advantages of giving the armband to a centre-back. One is that the player can see every teammate on the pitch, bar the goalkeeper, and will rarely be involved in the action, and the other is that rotation between centre-backs is rare, meaning they play more matches than the majority of players.
The 26-year-old is one of the most vocal players on the pitch, and anyone who watches clips from training would know the presence the German has around the club. He also speaks fluent English so can communicate easily with the squad and management staff.
Azpilicueta is the current Chelsea vice-captain but leads the team out on matchdays due to Cahill’s constant absence. The Spaniard will likely make the step up to club captain next season but not without controversy. Despite being one of the first names on the team sheet, Azpilicueta has drifted down the pecking order amongst fans and is at risk of losing his place in the team if some supporters get their wish of academy graduate Reece James displacing him.
Azpilicueta’s lack of leadership has been questioned this season, and with good reason. His inability to interfere during the incident in the Carabao Cup final led to fans wanting him stripped of the captaincy. However, the veteran remains one of the most experienced players at the club and has worn the blue of Chelsea for seven years, meaning you will do well to find a player who knows the club better than he does.
David Luiz has previous experience of captaining teams, having led his national side out on multiple occasions. Similar to Rudiger, Luiz would be a good fit as captain due to his position on the pitch. He is one of the most experienced heads in the dressing room and knows his way around the club, but is another player who fans have fallen out of love with.
Luiz’s passing range and ability to create chances from seemingly nonthreatening situations suits Sarri’s style of football, but the captain needs to be one of the first names on the team sheet, and Luiz is not one of them.
The wildcard option could be Sarri’s beloved Jorginho. The manager’s right-hand man is certainly an imperative cog in the team’s system and bellows orders across the pitch more than anyone. The 27-year-old is perhaps the most important member of Sarri’s squad, and being an influential player on the pitch means he naturally has a say on how the team plays.
Jorginho does not have any experience of being the leader in a team but that does not stop him from conducting the side from the centre of the pitch. He is Sarri’s voice on the field and could easily be a contender for the armband despite only signing for the club last summer.
Other names mentioned by fans in the comments of the poll include Kepa, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Reece James. The latter two are big fans’ favourites having progressed through the club’s academy, but lack experience and genuine leadership qualities. Both love the club dearly and will certainly put their bodies on the line for the badge, but giving the captaincy to inexperienced youngsters could cause a stir in the dressing room and teammates will be less likely to listen to and respect a captain they do not look up to.
Chelsea as a club are on a slippery slope, both on and off the pitch. One of the reasons for this is the lack of leaders Sarri has available to him, and with an inevitable transfer ban looming, that does not look like changing. If Chelsea are to progress as a club again then finding a leader in the timid dressing room is essential. Whoever leads the team out at Stamford Bridge next season will have the world on their shoulders.
Written by Liam Wilson.