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Ex-Arsenal star backs Wenger’s decision to make Arteta captain

Arsenal's new captain Mikel Arteta (centre) shows off the Community Shield trophy with Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez Arsenal's new captain Mikel Arteta (centre) shows off the Community Shield trophy with Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez

Exclusive by Jem Maidment
Friday, August 15, 2014
11:54 AM

Former Arsenal star Brian Talbot believes Mikel Arteta is the “best choice” to lead the Gunners on for the forthcoming season.

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The uncapped Spaniard was given the captain’s armband following Thomas Vermaelen’s £15million transfer to Barcelona last week, with German World Cup winner and fans’ favourite Per Mertesacker made vice-captain.

While some supporters were surprised at Arteta’s appointment, he kicked off his captaincy in style by picking up the Community Shield – and Talbot says it could be the first of many trophies.

“The manager has called it and he has better insights than anyone,” said Talbot, who made 327 appearances in the Gunners midfield between 1979 and 1985.

“Arsene Wenger clearly respects Arteta and that is important. Equally important is that he has the respect of his team-mates and, again, that appears to be the case.

“He has been a solid performer for Arsenal since he signed from Everton and has played a lot of games. Captains need to be sympathetic to team-mates and to lead by example – in that sense, it appears to be a straightforward decision.”

Talbot, now a scout at Championship side Fulham, is also convinced Arteta’s Arsenal can mount a sustained title challenge this season – starting against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

“That was a very impressive performance against champions Manchester City [on Sunday] and they are still missing their three Germans, while Theo Walcott is still to return and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will only get stronger,” he added.

“This is one of Arsenal’s strongest squads in a long time, but they still need to steer clear of injuries. Walcott was out for much of last season, as was Aaron Ramsey – and we all know just how important he is to Arsenal.

“The squad is strong. It is very technical and is clearly following the Barcelona blueprint.

“Whereas the last title-winning side was physically strong and could overwhelm teams, this side has smaller players who play more of a possession game.

“Arsenal will be one of the contenders this season, I am sure. But even with a larger squad they need to avoid too many serious injuries over the next nine months. If they can do that, they have a chance.”

Talbot was talking at the launch of new Arsenal book ‘Stuck In A Moment: The Ballad of Paul Vaessen’.

It is the story of former Arsenal striker Vaessen’s tragic life, which was a sad downward spiral of drink and drug addiction after he was forced to retire through injury at the age of 20.

Vaessen died of a drug overdose at the age of 39 and Talbot, his former team-mate, claimed football clubs must do more to prepare young players who don’t make it in the professional game.

“Paul’s is a very sad story,” said Talbot, sitting with Vaessen’s mother Maureen. “He was a very good striker. He was strong, a very decent header of the ball and had good technique.

“Paul was only a teenager when he scored the winner in the 1980 Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final at Juventus and looked as if he would have a very good career ahead of him.

“He was a south London boy and very confident with it – and he also worked very hard at his game. But we will never know how far he could have gone because a knee injury ended his career shortly after and he never recovered – with terrible consequences.

“Many clubs promise kids the earth but the sad reality is the majority will never make it. He retired more than 30 years ago and couldn’t cope with it.

“I don’t think too much has changed in the last three decades and I want clubs to do more to prepare youngsters for the outside world.

“This book is a harrowing, but important, read and I am really pleased the author, Stewart Taylor, has told Paul’s story – because it needed to be told.”

‘Stuck In A Moment: The Ballad of Paul Vaessen’ (GCR Books) is available now on Amazon, priced £18.99.

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