Mikel Arteta may need to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin in more than one way at Arsenal this summer.
With deadline day fast approaching, it would appear the futures of the aforementioned duo are far from certain.
Spanish outlet SPORT have claimed that Aubameyang, as well as fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette, are on the radar of La Liga giants Barcelona as Ronald Koeman looks to bolster his attacking options after Lionel Messi’s move to Paris Saint-Germain.
In addition, the report states that that the 26-year-old is becoming ‘extremely frustrated’ with the north London outfit’s apparent reluctance to allow him to leave the Emirates Stadium this summer and is even prepared to lower his wage demands if it helps to secure a move away.
Interest in the Spaniard has gone quiet in recent weeks after being linked with Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid earlier in the window.
But anything can happen in the final few days of a transfer window.
So, should Aubameyang and Bellerin leave before deadline day, one major question that many Arsenal fans will want to be answered is likely to be: Who will replace them?
Amid links to the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Max Aarons and Tyler Adams, there are certainly plenty of options for Arteta and technical director Edu to consider in terms of using the transfer market to find replacements.
Another question that will be posed if Aubameyang and Bellerin leave this summer is who will become the next Arsenal captain and vice-captain?
Many would have expected the 32-year-old to continue leading the team out for the next three years at least after signing a new contract last summer, whilst Bellerin has been his understudy for the past two seasons.
Judging by what happened against Brentford, it could be that Granit Xhaka is named Arsenal captain for the second time in his career.
It was only two years ago when the midfielder got the honour following the departure of Laurent Koscielny, only to be stripped of it in November 2019 after telling fans to “f*** off” when he was booed following his substitution against Crystal Palace a week earlier.
Having signed a new contract – despite seeming to close to joining Roma this summer – Xhaka has already established himself as a key player for Arteta and would almost certainly be in with a shout of becoming the next Arsenal captain should the Spaniard find himself in a position where he needs to appoint a new one.
But Arteta does have other options within his squad.
Interestingly, he has already hinted at Kieran Tierney as the perfect potential replacement for Aubameyang in terms of being a future Arsenal captain.
“I think he can be Arsenal captain as he has the respect and admiration of every member of the staff and every player,” Arteta said, as per Goal. “It is just the way he is.
“He does it in a natural way.
“He is a really shy boy as well but he represents all of us in the club; all of the values that we want to instill and are in the DNA in this club.”
Aside from Xhaka and Tierney, Albert Sambi Lokonga – a £15m summer signing from Anderlecht – could be a surprise candidate as he did captain the Belgian side before turning 22.
That would suggest already has impressive leadership qualities that could make him a contender for the vice-captaincy role at the very least.
Thomas Partey is another option, naturally, as he is the Ghana vice-captain and one of the more experienced members of the Arsenal first-team squad, and one who is likely to play week-in, week-out when available for selection.
A shock candidate could be Martin Odegaard , linked with a return to Arsenal this summer, and Arteta has already praised his leadership qualities after being named Norway captain back in March.
“I’m not surprised after sharing some time with him now,” Arteta said. “I’m not surprised at all. He’s got this personality, he’s a really humble and easygoing guy but at the same time, he’s very, very professional and very dedicated.
“He leads by example, which normally a captain should do.”
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That is four and potentially five candidates to replace one of Aubameyang and Bellerin – possibly both – when it comes to the Arsenal captaincy situation.
Not to mention Lacazette is a further option should he stay put as he is another player who has worn the armband when Aubameyang and Bellerin have been unavailable, as well as two members of Arteta’s leadership group.
As revealed by football.london, Rob Holding was part of Spaniard’s leadership group last season, whilst Pablo Mari is also someone who has garnered public praise from the Arsenal manager since he joined the club in January 2020.
“He’s a leader, someone that trains really hard,” Arteta said of his compatriot. “He’s a professional, a great communicator on the pitch and he gives you some security and stability.”