The impending absence of Luka Milivojevic has led us to ask, who will step up and lead the team?
A fifth yellow card at home to Norwich last Saturday(a record after 7 games surely), means that Luka will be suspended for tomorrow's trip to the London Stadium to face West Ham. This season we have options in the defensive midfield department to replace him, such as McCarthy, or you switch one of Jimmy or Cheik deeper and play Meyer. However, Luka's absence still throws up two big questions. If we get a penalty, who takes it? Plus, who will be Captain for the day?
Now, in regards to the penalty situation, it is a tough one. Luka has taken our penalties for the last two years, so realistically, we have no clue who would be the best replacement. We just know, to make sure it isn't Benteke. However, I would say, as our striker, it should be Jordan Ayew. The more debateable question for me, was who should be Captain?
Now, I am sure for some people, it doesn't matter. I have at times through my life, heard people say that the Captain is irrelevant, because they have no effect. Personally, this is something I disagree with. No matter what you make think of them personally, if you ask old United and Chelsea players, they will tell you that Roy Keane and John Terry were heavily effective Captains. Mile Jedinak, for us, was a fantastic leader. He led by example, he motivated, encouraged and inspired. When he left, and Scott Dann took the armband, our organisation left with him. Dann was a good player, and a natural choice as successor, but he proved he was not a leader. When he needed to be vocal, he was silent. When he needed to organise, he did nothing. When he needed to step in and calm a player down, he stayed away. It is no wonder that before long, we were crying out for Luka to take the armband once he had arrived. You just have to look at the last Saturday, where at times he was letting a few of our players know his opinion, because as Captain, he takes responsibility.
Yes, this requirement of a new Captain is only temporary, one game in fact, but I still feel that it is important. Since West Ham moved to the London Stadium, we have found it a struggle. Our first game there, under Big Sam, we lost 3-0. Under Roy, we have drawn 1-1(blowing the lead) and lost 3-2. It is not a happy hunting ground so far. If we are going to change that, and end West Ham's run of being unbeaten in the league since their opening day thrashing by City, then we need to be totally on point. This includes, good leadership. So, earlier this week we put the question to you, our BOTN followers, to gauge your opinion. There were four options, Joel Ward, James McArthur, Gary Cahill, or Another. Let me take a look now, at those options.
Much to the disgruntlement of our own Chris Hambling, Joel Ward was an option. I can understand why some people were miffed by this choice, given Joel has never really been linked with the armband. In fact, had it not been for the sale of AWB to fellow mid table side Man United, Joel wouldn't even be a starter. The fact is though, that AWB decided he needed that drop in quality of team, and left, so Joel does play. He has played every single minute of all seven games. Partially, because we have no other right back to replace him. Also though, because he has played very well. When we signed Joel from Portsmouth years ago, it was a big coup. He was a highly rated player, sought after by a lot of clubs, and we managed to get him. He showed very quickly that it was a good choice, making himself our first choice right back, and one of good quality too. When we stepped up to the Premier League, his versatility has been put to use, as we have seen him play at centre back, left back and in midfield. If we are honest, Joel had reached his peak, and so it felt natural that AWB became first choice right back, and I actually thought we might see Joel leave in the summer just past. Yet, now here he is, playing every game, and playing better than anyone thought he would. So why could he be Captain? Well, Joel is a top professional, who has shown loyalty to the club, and that despite adversity, he can just focus and get on with playing football. Two seasons ago, a certain Frank de Boer played him for just 45 minutes in an entire pre-season, and told him that he was being transfer listed. Then, on the opening day of the season, out of nowhere(such was the madness of FDB), Ward found himself not only starting, but in the position of Wing Back, which he had never played before. Alas, FDB thankfully departed and Roy came in, yet, for me, Ward would have been well within his rights to tell the club to stuff it, and just look to leave. Instead, he played, and despite losing his spot to AWB by the end of the season, he signed a new deal. Bar a couple of appearances , he basically sat out last season due to the red hot form of AWB, yet here he is, called upon, and delivering once more. Over the years, we have asked a lot of Joel, and he has never said no. He has always done what the club has asked, what the club has needed, and that is why some see him as worthy of the armband. He is also one of longest serving players, having made a total of 225 appearances for us.
In our poll, Joel got 6% of the vote.
Good old Jimmy Mac. For me, he would always be a candidate in this kind of discussion. I believe he has actually worn the armband a time or too, even if for a few minutes. I do find, that defensive midfielders, especially ones who love to tackle and take no crap from the opposition, make good Captains for us. These seven seasons in the Premier League have seen us sign our fair share of duds, but if you were going to have a discussion about who have been our best signings, Jimmy would most definitely be one of them. The man just does not give up, he has no quit in him. He is a fighter, who leaves it all out on the field. There have been times in recent seasons, where it has felt as though his time was ending. He would have a couple of average performances, and it would feel like it was time to become a squad player, not a starter. This summer, I even thought that is what would happen. Yet whenever that occurs, Jimmy comes back stronger, and shows why he is so vital to us, and why he is so hard to drop. He is like a terrier, he is on the opposition, snapping at their heels, causing a nuisance. When he is on form, he is a true warrior in the middle of the park, breaking up play, getting us on the front foot. He loves a tackle, boy does he, and I love that about him. Not only that, but he has come up with important goals. We have really lacked a goal scoring central midfielder(other than Luka from the spot), but the amount of times he has busted a gut to be the one in the box, and finished off with a goal, has been invaluable to us. It is why he has 176 appearances, and 19 goals for us. He is also a former Scotland International with 29 caps. You know, that if you gave Jimmy the armband, he would wear it with pride, and he would work hard to live up to it. The only concern would be that he might b a little too passionate, and it could cloud his judgement when needed.
In our poll, Jimmy got 10% of the vote.
It is rare, that a player with only 5 appearances for us, would even be considered for this. Yet, for me, Gary Cahill was the very first name that I thought of. The man is a natural born leader. He has Captained both Chelsea and England, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wore the armband for Bolton at some point. He has been there and done it all. He has two Premier League winners medals, a Champions League winners medal, two Europa League winners medals and a League Cup winners medal. He has also been in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year three times. Just on history alone, you could not overlook the man. On top of that, you just have to look at how he has been since he joined us. Even with Luka as Captain, Gary has still come across as a leader. He martial's our back line, he talks to players, he gets involved. You know full well, that he is a massive positive influence in that dressing room. He also seems to have bought into the club. He comes across like he cares, you can see his passion, his drive and determination. You can see what it means to him when we score, when we win. I have written an article this week lauding just that. His positive impact hasn't just been on the players, but us fans too. Roy knows him and trusts him, and that trust has filtered down throughout the club. I don't think anyone would argue if Gary was given the armband, and I think he would lead the team well, with composure and compassion. It is obvious to say, that he was my vote.
In our poll, Gary got 82% of the vote.
There were other candidates mentioned too. Some, naturally, were for comedy value, such as Jairo Riedewald. Mamadou Sakho was one choice, given that last season he would Captain in Luka's absence. I can understand the choice, I like Sakho and I think around the training ground, he is a personality that brings the players together. If he can remember the individual handshakes he has with everyone, you would like to think he can organise the team! However, I would imagine he is still out injured and so not an option. Cheikou Kouyate was another choice, as he is the Captain of Senegal. Again, a very good choice, and it would be totally understandable if he got the armband, based on that fact. For me though, I can't say I have quite seen that side of him with us, but he is a very good player who improves our midfield. James Tomkins could be another option. Arguably our best centre back, I could see him with the armband, although I would fear that perhaps it would have the same effect as it did with Scott Dann. Still, Tomkins might not even start, and if he doesn't, I would rather he focused on getting back into playing, then organising the team.
In our poll, Another got 2% of the vote.
So, it was a landslide win for Gary Cahill. Us, as fans, have spoken. We have made it clear who our choice would be. Now, we wait to find out the Jeffrey Schlupp choice that Roy makes!!