Theo Walcott taking Arsenal captaincy no factor in Chelsea defeat - Wenger
The decision to hand Theo Walcott the captaincy for Arsenal's game against Chelsea left many fans dismayed on social media, but Arsene Wenger denied it had been a distraction in the team's 1-0 loss.
Walcott marked his 10-year anniversary at the club this week and Per Mertesacker handed the forward the armband before the game at Emirates Stadium.
That led to a strong reaction on Twitter as fans questioned whether Walcott should be captain for one of the biggest games of the season and accused Wenger of being too sentimental.
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It only got worse after Mertesacker got himself sent off in the 18th minute and Walcott struggled to make an impact as Arsenal went down to 10 men.
There's no time for sentiment in football. Walcott captain is a poor decision- SpecialistInFailure (@EddieKoboah) January 24, 2016
Walcott captain today is one of the strangest decisions Wenger has ever made- Olly (@Giroudesque) January 24, 2016
Theo Walcott captain? Worst thing the club has ever done in 130 years of existence.- S (@attwood10) January 24, 2016
Some fans felt Wenger should have taken off either Walcott or Joel Campbell when Mertesacker was sent off instead of striker Olivier Giroud, who was replaced by Gabriel Paulista.
However, the manager said he felt the pace of Walcott would be more important as Arsenal were forced to focus on counter-attacks while playing a man down.
But while Walcott rarely threatened the Chelsea goal and was eventually substituted in the second half, Wenger dismissed the notion that the captaincy issue had been a distraction, or a reason for the loss.
"You can find many reasons but you never really know," Wenger said. "We are frustrated after the game because we could not play with our real assets. I don't think that is down to Mertesacker giving the captaincy to Walcott."
And not all fans were upset about the decision, with some saying it showed the club's appreciation for their longest-serving player.
Theo Walcott captain today. Classy touch from the club to celebrate his 10th anniversary as a Gunners player. pic.twitter.com/5fvPUs5wJt- Chris Wheatley (@GoonerTalk) January 24, 2016
The result leaves the Gunners third in the Premier League, level on points with second-placed Manchester City and three behind leaders Leicester City.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.