Arsène Wenger made the damning admission on Tuesday that he did not know who captained Arsenal in the second half of their 2-2 draw with Manchester City.
On-field captain Laurent Koscielny was substituted at half time of Sunday’s game with an Achilles injury, but it was unclear who received the armband in the second period.
The Arsenal manager’s words only add weight to the arguments of his harshest critics, who charge that Arsenal are a rudderless ship lacking leadership.
“Err, I don’t remember,” Wenger said, when asked who was skipper or if one was elected. “No it is a good question. Nobody asked me who is captain.” Wenger also confirmed he was yet to decide who would captain his team against West Ham on Wednesday.
Premier League rules stipulate teams must have a clearly designated captain on the pitch and Arsenal are likely to be reminded of those requirements.
The Arsenal captaincy has taken on a ceremonial feel in recent seasons, with club captains Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker spending lengthy spells on the sidelines.
Since the start of the 2012-13 season, Arsenal’s captain has played in 86 of 262 games in all competitions.
During the same period, the injury-stricken Vincent Kompany has featured in 135, John Terry 166, while the various captains of Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United have appeared 170, 177 and 186 times respectively.
Having previously expressed a desire to ‘reinvent himself’, the Arsenal manager clarified those intentions by stating he prefers personal evolution to revolution.
Wenger said: “That has nothing to do with you to change. That is something to do with you to improve. My battle in my whole life is to improve and to be better. That is evolution, not change. Change is the heart of who you are. That’s difficult. Evolution? Yes.”
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis said on Sunday that Arsenal’s poor results over the past six weeks, which included a 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, had been a ‘catalyst for change’ at the Emirates.
Telegraph Sport reported last month that Arsenal's hierarchy were hastening their search for a ‘sporting director’ to either work with Wenger or smooth the transition should he depart.
The Frenchman defended Arsenal’s off-field structures however, saying: “I would like you to visit one day the club from now from what it is to when it was when I arrived. You would say there is a structural change. I can still say ‘yes we do not win enough games’. Yes, yes ok I can always demand more.
“But as well as we have managed to combine investments, structural change without anybody putting one penny in – all only based on the quality of my work. And be consistent. If somebody in the next 20 years does much better, believe me I am very happy. But at least he has fantastic conditions: strong financial situation and good players.”
The future of Arsenal’s longest serving manager is yet to be completely resolved but Wenger maintains that keeping his players focused on the job at hand will not be an issue.
Wenger said: “The problem in our game today is that what is superficial is the heart of the debate and the things that are important nobody talks about.
“You never read about the performance of one individual person on the pitch, you read only about all the rest. Maybe the rest sells newspapers but it doesn’t really matter.”
Social media has been saturated with content about Arsenal fans fighting, hiring competing planes and even using a ‘Brexit Van’ to sloganise their views on the manager and board.
A handful of ‘protesters’ gathered outside Arsenal’s London training ground on Tuesday, one of them adorning an Alexis Sanchez mask, but Wenger gave them short shrift.
“I don’t know what to say. It is good that they can waste their day like that,” he retorted.
Arsenal are without Koscielny against West Ham due to the aggravation of a troublesome Achilles injury.
“I think he had an old Achilles problem that he maintains here by working,” said Wenger.
“He had that many times. When he goes with the French national team they work on different grounds, sometimes in hard surfaces and that made it worse.”
Wenger is confident Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey will pass late fitness tests and be available on Wednesday, as Arsenal look to close the gap on the Champions League places.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech is absent with a calf issue and with David Ospina doubtful due to a knock, Emiliano Martinez could deputise.