As captain’s performances go it probably wasn’t the one Arsenal manager Unai Emery was looking for when he appointed Granit Xhaka skipper of the Gunners in September.
Having squandered a two-goal lead to Crystal Palace in a Premier League game on Sunday, Swiss international Xhaka was substituted by Emery in the 61st minute as Arsenal searched for a third goal.
Xhaka’s substitution was at first greeted by ironic cheers, but as the 27-year-old ambled to the side of the pitch boos began to ring around the Emirates stadium
Xhaka then cupped his ears to the crowd in a defiant response to the Arsenal fans, before removing his shirt, refusing a handshake from Emery and reportedly swearing at supporters as he headed straight down the tunnel.
After the game, Emery said Xhaka was “wrong” to react in the way he did.
“Now we need to stay calm and speak with him, to speak inside about that reaction. His reaction was wrong in that moment,” added Emery.
“We need to be clever in our minds and create habits under pressure for our minds to be clearer. We can play with our hearts and can be hot in difficult moments, but our minds must be clever.”
‘Pressure and criticism’
Xhaka has made 143 appearances during his four seasons at Arsenal after joining from German side Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016.
He was named as Arsenal’s captain in September by Emery following former captain Laurent Koscielny’s exit to Bordeaux.
“He is mature, he has experience,” said Emery after Xhaka’s official appointment.
“We are living all the time under pressure and criticism, as coaches and players. The most important thing is to stand up each moment, go ahead with his quality and behavior and commitment. In the dressing room the players voted for him as first leader.”
Earlier this season Xhaka was also jeered by Arsenal fans after being substituted in the second half of the 3-2 win over Aston Villa.
“I spoke with him,’ said Emery after the Villa game. “We want to change that opinion outside. The respect he has inside [the club] is very very important.”
After the latest run-in with Arsenal’s fans, Emery refused to comment on whether Xhaka would remain as captain.
“We need the supporters and when they criticize us, we need to stand up,” he said. “When they applaud us, we need to stay calm, because they are our supporters and they are the reason for our work.
“We want to give them our opinion and your opinion, and because we have a lot of followers here and the world. We need our players to stay calm in all the moments, when we’re applauded and when we’re criticized.”