Granit Xhaka: Arsenal midfielder stripped of captaincy, says Unai Emery
Xhaka may never play for Gunners again, Aubameyang new captain
Granit Xhaka has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy. The decision from Unai Emery is just the start.
Midfielder Granit Xhaka has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang taking over, Gunners’ boss Unai Emery has confirmed.
“We have now Aubameyang, Hector, Lacazette and Ozil – they are the four captains, and first is now Aubameyang”.
Xhaka, 27, was involved in an angry confrontation with home fans during the Gunners’ 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on 27 October.
“I had a meeting with him and told him he is no longer in the captain’s group,” said Emery on Tuesday.
“He accepted my decision. I needed to take a decision and now it’s closed.”
“I told him that and he accepted my decision. And for me it is finished.
“He is not here today and we need more time with him. He is training with us every day and we can go one more step with him but we need to be calm.”
Last month, the Switzerland international was booed as he walked off the pitch at Emirates Stadium, prompting him to cup his ear, take his shirt off and head straight down the tunnel to the dressing room.
Emery later said Xhaka should apologise to the club’s supporters, saying the Swiss midfielder “knows he was wrong”.
However, Xhaka refused to go that far, although he did say he got “carried away” and reacted “disrespectfully” to fans.
“The scenes that took place around my substitution have moved me deeply,” Xhaka said in statement on Instagram last month. “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.”
Xhaka, who has not played since, has been left out of Arsenal’s squad for their Europa League game in Portugal against Vitoria Guimaraes on Wednesday.
📋 Our travelling squad for tomorrow’s game against Vitoria is now confirmed
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) November 5, 2019
He joined the club in a £35m move from German side Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016 and played in the 2017 FA Cup final as Arsenal beat Chelsea.
Xhaka, who is the captain of the Swiss national side, also helped the Gunners reach the League Cup final in 2018 and the final of the Europa League earlier this year.
Arsenal are fifth in the Premier League and play away at third-placed Leicester on Saturday.
Emery sacks Xhaka as Arsenal captain. Right decision. pic.twitter.com/IrW14u8RQN
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) November 5, 2019
UNAI EMERY dodged questions about Granit Xhaka’s Arsenal future after confirming he’d been stripped of the club captaincy.
He said: “The future is with the players and the coaches who are here.
“We have a very important match in the Europa League and then on Saturday we need to take some decisions about circumstances that have happened.
“Xhaka is one of our players and we want to respect and protect him and also continue in our way.
“At the moment he is not in the group and there is nothing more to say about this.
“In the next weeks and months we can see how we can continue with every player and with him also.”
‘This leaves a huge question mark over Granit Xhaka’s future’
Phil McNulty, BBC Sport’s chief football reporter
Emery’s decision to strip Xhaka of the Arsenal captaincy was the inevitable consequence of his angry exchange with supporters during the draw with Crystal Palace.
The whole affair has been a mess of Emery’s making, starting with letting a blind vote among Arsenal’s players elect a captain rather than being strong enough to make the decision himself, ending with a figure who has never been a fans’ favourite and has had a chequered career at the club with the armband.
And while there is understandable sympathy for Xhaka because of abuse he has suffered on social media, it was impossible for him to continue as captain once he gestured and mouthed towards fans when he was substituted during the 2-2 draw.
Xhaka had not actually been subjected to any undue criticism from supporters during the game itself, a fact many have missed, with the frustrations inside the stadium only bubbling to the surface when he decided to make his slow-motion exit, almost goading and provoking fans before taking off his shirt and walking down the tunnel.
No matter what the human emotions are, it was an action that made this latest development predictable but also highlights Emery’s own uneasy handling of the captaincy succession after Laurent Koscielny’s departure.
It has turned up the spotlight on Emery and leaves a huge question mark over whether Xhaka has any sort of future at Arsenal.
SEE BELOW Unai Emery press conference ahead of Arsenal Europa League game with Vitoria as published on Arsenal.com
‘There are four captains, the first is Aubameyang’
Read on what Emery told the media:
on leaving Granit Xhaka out of the squad…
UE – Again, we can do one step more with him. He’s not here today but also I think we need to take time with him, first to protect him and also to be calm and training with us every day. But I was speaking with him this morning and also I decided he’s not one of the captains in our group and I decided that and I told him this morning.
on what Granit’s response was…
UE – He accepted my decision and also I told the captain and other captain my decision, we need to carry on and to focus on tomorrow’s match and Saturday’s match. I needed to take one decision, and now it is closed.
on whether they will be another vote on the captaincy…
UE – We have now Aubameyang, Hector, Lacazette and Ozil – they are the four captains, and first is now Aubameyang.
on Granit’s comments on the abuse he has received and whether he has a future here…
UE – The future is Arsenal’s club future, with the players that are here now and the coaches that are here. We have a match tomorrow, a very important match for us in the Europa League and then on Saturday in that way we need to take some decisions about some circumstances that are happening. I say to you what it is about Xhaka and now is for the match tomorrow and only that is my focus. Our focus is for tomorrow and then I think we need time because he is one of our players and we want to protect and respect him and also continue in our way. At the moment he’s not in the group and my decision is as I said to you. Tomorrow’s match is now the focus and the most important.
I think we have a lot of work to do for to improve and for us to take confidence. We were speaking also – the team – this morning about our moment and also speaking about our match tomorrow, our match on Saturday and really expecting to play and looking forward to see the team again tomorrow and to see how we can respond against Vitoria Guimaraes away. And also because this competition for us is very important and if we win tomorrow we are going to be the first in the table. That’s our target in this round, in the group and then to do something important in this competition.
on if this is a permanent or temporary decision on Granit and if he’s asked to leave…
UE – I think we are speaking a lot about that and it’s clear, there’s not more words about that. The decision I have taken, and also I told him and I told the other captains and now we are continuing.
Then the time is giving us the next matches, the next weeks and the next months, how we can continue with every player and with him also. But now our focus is on tomorrow, he is not here. We have other players and for me also it’s very important that I respect a lot the competition and Vitoria Guimaraes and also we have on Saturday another important match. Our focus is only those two matches and I want to say to you also my decision.
I told them. First Xhaka and then the captains and it’s finished. For me, it’s finished, that moment and that issue and his future with us is coming for the next weeks or the next months and now we need to be focused for tomorrow.