Granit Xhaka reached “boiling point” after his wife and daughter were abusively targeted on social media, the Arsenal captain said as he spoke for the first time to explain his angry reaction to the club’s supporters booing him.
The embattled Swiss international stopped short of issuing a full apology to the fans, however, even after his manager Unai Emery said the 27-year-old’s reaction was “wrong” when he was hauled off in the 61st minute in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. Emery confirmed Xhaka wouldn’t feature against Wolves on Saturday in the Premier League.
The midfielder received ironic cheers as he first made his way off the pitch before they turned into boos from a section of the support at the Emirates Stadium.
He didn’t help himself when he cupped his ears looking at the crowd, didn’t shake Emery’s hand, angrily took off his jersey and launched into a foul-mouthed tirade.
“The scenes that took place around my substitution have moved me deeply,” Xhaka said in a statement posted on Arsenal’s twitter feed and website late Thursday. “I love this club and always give 100% on and off the pitch.
“My feeling of not being understood by fans and repeated abusive comments at matches and in social media over the last weeks and months have hurt me deeply.
“People have said things like, ‘We will break your legs’, ‘Kill your wife’ and ‘Wish that your daughter gets cancer.’ That has stirred me up and I reached boiling point when I felt the rejection in the stadium on Sunday.
“In this situation, I let myself be carried away and reacted in a way that disrespected the group of fans that support our club, our team and myself, with positive energy. That has not been my intention and I’m sorry if that’s what people thought.
“My wish is that we get back to a place of mutual respect, remembering why we fell in love with this game in the first place. Let’s move forward positively together.”
Xhaka to face Wolves?
Xhaka — like most of Arsenal’s first-team regulars — sat out the club’s loss on penalties to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. But then Emery revealed Friday in his pre-match news conference the player would also miss the game against giant-killing Wolves at home.
“I think that tomorrow, he is not going to play,” said Emery. “I think that now, we need to be focused on the match at 100%. Now we are going to train but at the moment, he’s not in my mind (to play).
“Xhaka’s issues last week is one issue that needs time to recover the normality with him and with us.”
Xhaka has been booed before this season and criticized by pundits including former Manchester United fullback Gary Neville for his poor positional sense in a holding role and clumsy challenges. He does, though, possess a wicked left foot that has produced wonder strikes.
He appears to be a popular figure in the Arsenal dressing room, voted permanent captain by his fellow players in September.
“As a group, as a leader, we support him all the way,” keeper Emiliano Martinez, who started against Liverpool, was quoted as saying by the Telegraph after the Cup defeat. “He’s a lovely guy. He’s a bit devastated because he has got a good family, a good heart and he loves the club. When someone goes through that, we have to support him and we are together.
“We wanted to win the game for him.
“It was a shock because we know how much he cares about the club. Everyone has emotions. At that time he wasn’t thinking much about that, because we were 2-2 and the fans wanted to win the game. It was a bit nervous in the stadium but I think if he does it again he won’t think about that, he will come off quick.”
Xhaka — signed from Borussia Moenchengladbach in 2016 during the Arsene Wenger era — isn’t the only one feeling the heat in the red side of North London.
In the ‘next manager to leave’ odds in the Premier League, Emery sits third behind Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl and Everton’s Marco Silva.
Arsenal relinquished a two-goal lead against Crystal Palace and that came after a 1-0 loss at newly promoted Sheffield United. And against Liverpool, the Gunners blew leads of 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4.
Some supporters are even calling for Jose Mourinho — who usually doesn’t opt for the free flowing style of football Arsenal fans have come to expect — to replace the Spaniard.