Granit Xhaka: Arsenal midfielder stripped of captaincy – Unai Emery


Granit Xhaka

Midfielder Granit Xhaka has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang taking over, Gunners’ boss Unai Emery has confirmed.

Xhaka, 27, was involved in an angry confrontation with home fans during the Gunners’ 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium 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.”

  • Arsenal without Ozil and Aubameyang for Europa League game

The Switzerland captain was booed as he walked off the pitch after being substituted against Palace, 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 midfielder “knows he was wrong”.

However, Xhaka did not go that far, although he did say he got “carried away” and reacted “disrespectfully” to fans.

  • I reached boiling point – Xhaka

He has not played since and is not in Arsenal’s squad for their Europa League game in Portugal against Vitoria Guimaraes on Wednesday (15:50 GMT kick-off).

Xhaka joined the club from German side Borussia Monchengladbach for £35m in 2016 and played in the 2017 FA Cup final as Arsenal beat Chelsea.

He also helped the Gunners reach the Carabao 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 City on Saturday (17:30).

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Analysis

Phil McNulty, chief football writer

Emery’s decision to strip Xhaka of the Arsenal captaincy was the inevitable consequence of his angry exchange with supporters.

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 up 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.

Xhaka had not actually been subjected to any undue criticism from supporters during the Palace game – 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. It 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.

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