Arsenal have named Per Mertesacker as their new club captain despite the former Germany centre-back being in the midst of a lengthy knee injury lay-off.
Mertesacker, who sustained his injury during a pre-season friendly against Lens, takes on the role following Mikel Arteta’s departure to take up a coaching role at Manchester City after the end of last season.
Manager Arsene Wenger believes his senior core of players are capable of sharing the armband until the 31-year-old makes his return.
“Per is a very respected figure in the dressing room, is loved as well and is also a very demanding figure. I think it is absolutely natural to be [him],” he told Arsenal Player.
“[In his absence] that’s where it will be taken by the assistants. One of them will be [Laurent] Koscielny, also [Santi] Cazorla, the experienced players – [Petr] Cech maybe.
“We will have a group of people that will take care of the energy levels and the problems of the team. That will be down a lot to the experienced players.”
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) August 13, 2016
Gabriel Paulista is also sidelined with ankle ligament damage and Koscielny’s late return to training following France’s run to the final of Euro 2016 means Arsenal could begin their Premier League campaign against Liverpool on Sunday fielding the inexperienced pairing of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding at the heart of defence.
Wenger is in the market for reinforcements at centre-back, with Mertesacker’s compatriot Shkodran Mustafi heavily linked with a move from Valencia to Emirates Stadium over recent days.
Meanwhile, midfielder Jack Wilshere voiced his approval for the new captain’s appointment.
“It is good news for us. For me anyway, over the last few seasons he has been like a captain,” the England international told Arsenal Player.
“He is a natural leader and I know he has picked up an injury, but he can still bring so much to us as a team. I’m sure if you ask the other boys, they will say he would be an obvious choice for captain. We are happy.
“He is organised and he won’t take any nonsense from anyone. If someone is late or on their phone, he is on to them – it doesn’t matter who you are. He is the one who organises our team dinners, so for me he is a great choice.”