Four days after an angry response from supporters having been substituted went viral and split opinion, Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka has now posted a statement explaining his actions while calling for unity and mutual respect in future.
Sarcastic cheers and jeers reverberated around the Emirates Stadium on Sunday evening, as Unai Emery decided to replace Xhaka shortly after the hour-mark. Arsenal raced into a two-goal lead against Crystal Palace, though a Luka Milivojevic penalty and Jordan Ayew equaliser meant the scores were finely poised at 2-2 with time ticking away.
Xhaka, who created the opener for Sokratis, was sacrificed – seeing as he’s their most defensive-minded midfield option. Replaced by promising teenager Bukayo Saka, he slowly trudged off the pitch which saw those cheers quickly turn to boos, much to their annoyance that he wasn’t swift in rushing off to ensure play quickly resumed.
Having goaded fans to boo louder before telling them to ‘f— off’ twice, he furiously took off his shirt and headed straight down the tunnel. As shown below, the 27-year-old revealed his actions were a response to constant abuse from fans on and off-the-pitch.
Xhaka’s response, with disgruntled fans abusing other players too
His statement addressed issues on two fronts: highlighting some of the vitriol he received from parts of the club’s fanbase while calling for unity. The role of fans in motivating such a fired-up response was key, though Xhaka was not exempt from blame. Discussing the need for ”mutual respect” was wise, as damage limitation is also necessary.
Shkodran Mustafi, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are among those who have been subject to abuse for differing reasons since pre-season, with fans increasingly frustrated by the club’s stagnation under new management – particularly after Arsene Wenger’s underwhelming departure last year.
Ultimately, Xhaka is club captain – whether you love or hate him. Emery hasn’t revealed whether he’ll strip him of said captaincy but his insistence on an apology from both sides suggests that’s not the case, even if he does take some time out. Reaching his limit left Xhaka emotional, according to Emery:
However, Granit still retains support from his teammates and are fully behind him. Second-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez said the squad “have to support him and we are together,” per the Guardian’s Marcus Christenson.
Backing from the rest of the squad will be key while Emery decides whether or not to leave the captain’s armband on Xhaka. Hector Bellerin was skipper for Wednesday’s penalty shootout defeat to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup. It makes sense to lessen focus on him – even short-term – removing some pressure off the Switzerland international.
H/T: Bleacher Report