Frank Lampard and Unai Emery might have had different starts to their seasons but they will both have to make similar decisions that could determine the fate of their clubs this season.
For one of them, it’s a welcome introduction to the Premier League (as a coach) and for the other it’s a continued scenario he’s well familiar with from last season.
Appointing a club captain is supposed to be a decision carefully taken in a bid to pick the right candidate who will show a good example to other players.
Lampard and Emery will be sweating over their faces as both their captains have been nothing to write home about since the start of the season.
From a defensive perspective, Cesar Azpilicueta has been the epitome of calamity and from a midfield perspective, Granit Xhaka has been the true definition of “disappointing”.
Many fans from both clubs are now calling for their beloved captains to be benched and it remains to be seen whether Lampard or Emery will heed to this.
For Emery, it might look a bit straight-forward. The Spaniard has more than enough names to fill up the slot in midfield should Granit Xhaka be sacrified. Ceballos has impressed and looks like the ideal candidate to perfectly replace Xhaka should that decision be made.
Also, there’s a talented Joe Willock in wait and a returning Mesut Ozil who can all come in and the formations would easily be tweaked to suit whoever.
One area Arsenal do have lots of depth in is midfield and you sense that Emery won’t lose sleep too much thinking of a Granit Xhaka replacement.
Also, the Gunners have players like David Luiz, Sokratis Papasthatopoulos, Alexandre Lacazette to mention a few that can easily take the leadership responsibility should it require new hands.
It does look like Emery has a certain bias for the Swiss international but we’ll have to wait and see.
For Lampard though, it’s not as simple as it is.
Unlike Arsenal, Chelsea are not blessed with depth for the left-back position Azpilicueta occupies. That sole reason is what may see the 30-year-old get more chances to redeem himself or Lampard simply deciding to grind it out with him till the end of the season.
Having let Davide Zappacosta go on loan to Roma, the most likely challenger to Azpilicueta’s position is Reece James – except the 19-year-old injured ankle ligaments during the Toulon Tournament and is still a couple of weeks from returning following surgery.
Furthermore, the Chelsea squad doesn’t seem to have as able candidates for leadership should the services of Azpilicueta need a break.
Dropping a captain is one thing but removing a captain and handing over to a less-able candidate might even do more harm than solving the solution.
Lampard knows the above context better than anyone as he was also once Chelsea captain as well.
Azpilicueta has also been a consistent performer for the good part of six years plus so to drop him on the basis of a few games might be harsh.
Let’s not also forget the all important fact that Frank Lampard and the 30-year-old are good friends and also even played together in the same Chelsea team at a point in time.
Both coaches will need to make their stances known on the players after the international break.
34 more games means it’s still too early to lose faith in a player and it’s most likely both coaches will stick to them a bit longer.
Fans should also be careful what they wish for. Dropping Azpilicueta based on his bad performances might not be far-fetched but replacing him with a 19-year-old with zero minutes experience in the Premier League isn’t assuring as well.
Lampard will surely be aware of this and will be taking things gradually.
The international break will be over soon and it’ll be interesting to see if any of these players lose their starting berths/armband responsibility too.