Unai Emery: Arsenal Captain Granit Xhaka Must 'Change the Opinion' of Critics


LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: Granit Xhaka, Unai Emery of Arsenal celebrate together with Unai Emery after scoring 1st goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal FC at Selhurst Park on October 28, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Arsenal manager Unai Emery has challenged Granit Xhaka to “change the opinion” of his critics after he was named as the club captain on Friday.

The Switzerland international’s new position was confirmed by the club ahead of their clash with Manchester United in the Premier League on Monday. Although Xhaka has skippered the team on numerous occasions, it was a surprise for many supporters to see him take the armband on a full-time basis.

Having struggled for form as of late, Xhaka was jeered by some of his home supporters in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa.

Emery said he admires the qualities of the player and thinks he can alter perceptions, per James Olley of the Evening Standard:

“I trust and believe in him, and he is a good man, a good professional and a good player. Sometimes he has made a mistake, yes, but the most important thing is to analyse, to learn and to correct that in the future.

“His challenge, and our challenge, is to change that opinion and, above all, show personality and improve in each match and give us his help every time. The first match is on Monday at Manchester United.”

Here is more of what Emery had to say:

Per the Arsenal website, Xhaka will be part of a leadership group at the Emirates Stadium, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette, and Mesut Ozil also involved.

Xhaka will need to perform to a higher standard if he is to change the mind of his critics, as he’s been inconsistent throughout his time in English football.

For long spells of games, he can appear assured in possession and aggressive when trying to win the ball back. However, the midfielder frequently makes rash decisions in crucial areas and is prone to switching off when tasked with defensive duties.

Henry Winter of the Times thinks Xhaka is fortunate to have been given this kind of responsibility:

Winning a poll conducted among his team-mates would suggest that the Arsenal squad consider the 27-year-old to be an authoritative voice in the dressing room, though. That will be a key attribute in a squad full of younger players.

Charles Watts of Football.London spoke about what Xhaka might be able to offer in the role:

Football journalist Tim Stillman doesn’t think the decision makes much difference to the current squad dynamic:

At the moment, Xhaka faces a fight for a starting berth in north London. Not only has Matteo Guendouzi blossomed this term, Emery has Dani Ceballos, Joe Willock and Lucas Torreira to call upon in central midfield.

The hope at Arsenal will be that the honour bestowed on Xhaka will bring some much-needed maturity to his play. If he can eradicate that recklessness from his football and settle into a consistent run of form, then the Swiss will be a big asset for the Gunners in the Premier League.  

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