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Will Arsenal players roll their sleeves up?

OPINION: Ivan Gazidis is rumoured to be on the brink of leaving the Emirates Stadium – wherever he goes, the chief executive won’t forget the Gunners fan who reminded him of the ‘captain decides’ tradition

02 August, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Mesut Ozil 

WITH the rumours that Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis could be moving to AC Milan, I can’t help but think of the big issue which must have kept him awake at night during the years he has spent trying to push the club forward.

It’s not how to smoothly handle Arsene Wenger’s stubbornly protracted departure as manager, or the big question as to who the club were going to replace him with. To be fair, it looks like Mr Gazidis has played some decent cards by bringing in Unai Emery, whose pre-season reboot is full of encouraging signs. It takes some skill to organise such an appointment with such confidentiality; the world’s bumbling football press were chasing the idea that Mikel Arteta could be the next manager while Mr Gazidis was sealing the deal with Emery.

No, the issue which must have plagued Mr Gazidis during still moments at Arsenal must have been: Was Mr Conlon right?

As league championship campaigns fell away, was Mr Conlon right? As big-name players walked away from the project, was Mr Conlon right all along?

Regular readers will know that John Conlon, who lives in Hilldrop Road, on the Camden and Islington border, has regularly emailed Mr Gazidis directly to ask why Arsenal appear to have dropped their traditional “captain decides” club rule on kit. This is where the captain of the day elects for either short or long sleeves, and the rest of the team must uniformly wear the same length.

Mr Conlon, who is in his 60s and a long-serving fan, believes the apparent abandonment of this dapper routine is symptomatic of some of Arsenal’s woes in recent seasons – an erosion of standards.

Slightly surprisingly, given his workload, Mr Gazidis had the courtesy to write back to Mr Conlon – see our paper’s back issues from October 2016 – insisting that the tradition was still maintained but with, aha, a “modern twist”.

He explained that sometimes the appearance of a player wearing long sleeves while the captain was wearing short sleeves was actually because the accused player was wearing white “performance-enhancing undergarments”. Got it? You know, the body-hugging lycra-like tops that some of them wear under their kit.

Mr Conlon was unimpressed and repeatedly said the club was caving in to player power, often singling out Mesut Ozil and the now departed Alexis Sanchez for undermining the rule.

Mr Gazidis did not keep replying, although Mr Conlon wrote again when Emery was appointed to see if the new chapter in the club’s history could mean sartorial standards would be restored. It may not be Mr Gazidis’s headache for much longer. If a new man does come in, however, you can probably bet who the first fan to email in will be.

Was Mr Conlon right?

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