It’s bad enough that Arsenal are struggling to be coherent with their free-flowing style of football they’re largely known for. It’s even worse to then imagine that the Gunners are without a win in their last two Premier League games but even as bad as it sounds, there’s more even more bad vibe regarding the club at the moment.
Arsenal have a sour history of Judas captains and while the actions of skipper Granit Xhaka against Crystal Palace has caused much uproar among the Arsenal fans and neutrals alike, much more could result in what is looking like a bad period for Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
It was recently reported by The Athletic that the Spaniard’s future at Arsenal is under much scrutiny and with recent reports strongly linking a certain Jose Mourinho back to action, speculation will only continue further at least till things are much more sane at the club.
Prior to the start of the season, many of the Gunners faithful were critical of the club appointing Granit Xhaka as the club’s captain based on his abysmal record of giving away goals and fouls that have cost the club far too many times. In the end, the Swiss who is popular amongst the Arsenal players was chosen to be the head of a five-man-leadership group appointed by Unai Emery. If the Arsenal fans were looking for a strong reason to turn on their captain, he totally gave himself away against Crystal Palace at the Emirates.
The Switzerland international’s name was ironically cheered by Arsenal fans when the loud speaker announced he would be coming off as a substitute.
Gunners supporters then set about booing the 27-year-old, which only aggravated the situation further and lead to Xhaka cupping his ears and shouting “f*** off”.
As he made his way off the pitch, the midfielder then removed his shirt before storming down the tunnel and into the changing room.
The logical thing expected was for Granit Xhaka to tender an apology but reverse was the case when he further infuriated the Gunners faithful by changing his Instagram profile picture from that of him in an Arsenal shirt to him spotting the Switzerland jersey.
In the aftermath of the events, Arsenal manager Unai Emery has revealed that he asked Xhaka to make an apology during a meeting with the midfielder, but it appears that he’s turned down the proposal as fans continue to wait some clarity from their captain.
“Yes, I think when we make individual mistakes, we need to make apologies for the circumstances,” Emery said, quoted by The Times. “I prefer to do that. We suggest to him to do it.”
Emery, who then left Xhaka out of the Gunners squad which will face Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, added that the Arsenal captain is “devastated” and will need some time out of the spotlight before he’s brought back into the club’s first-team.
“He is not feeling that with the supporters,” he added. “It is not only yesterday and today. He is feeling the supporters don’t like him. But we are speaking with him to first be calm and be close with his family and be close with us because we are your family too.
“Be close and we are going to try to be close with our supporters and this is a step, little-by-little, towards that in this moment. It’s that he is devastated and he is very down.
It’s a dicey situation from an Arsenal point of view as the club have to maintain a some-what diplomatic stance between cautioning Xhaka for his reaction and taking necessary disciplinary measures on the incident as well. However, just how much of a ripple effect could Xhaka inflict on Emery, the Arsenal fans and possibly his future at the club.
Xhaka losing his leadership role and influence in the Arsenal dressing room
Xhaka’s reaction to the jeers on Sunday could pretty much be the end of his leadership role at the club. It brings back memories of a certain William Gallas during Arsene Wenger’s tenure and if history is anything to go by, Xhaka could be stripped off the armband in the nearest future.
Arsene Wenger handed the armband to William Gallas following Thierry Henry’s departure in August 2007. It was not a popular decision among supporters and it went down poorly in the dressing room too.
Arsenal started the season strongly, but it all unravelled during a fateful 2-2 draw with Birmingham City in February, when Gallas reacted furiously to Gael Clichy’s late concession of a penalty and staged a sit-down protest in the centre circle at St Andrew’s after the final whistle.
His behaviour was heavily criticised, with Lehmann likening the defender to a “sulky child” and revealing he clashed with Gilberto Silva in the dressing room afterwards. Gallas kept hold of the captaincy initially but was stripped of the armband after criticizing team-mates in November 2008. While the Arsenal squad still seem to be offering support for Xhaka in a “difficult” situation, It’s only a matter of time before some members of the squad turn on him and he then loses his “esteemed” influence in the Arsenal ranks.
Even further pressure on Unai Emery
Emery was already under pressure heading into the Palace game and to think that a situation which could easily have been avoided masked the atmosphere at the Emirates, it’s unfortunate that Emery will also share part of the blame for everything.
The Spaniard was already accused of losing the Arsenal dressing room and the on-going situation with Mesut Ozil has been the highlight of that narrative. A further reason to worry about from Xhaka only brings room for more pressure that could ultimately force the Spaniard to make some decisions out of his way.
The big irony of it all is that both players in Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka are part of Emery’s five-man leadership squad and hence a big decision would have to be made on “forgiving” the players in question or bowing to the demand of the fans to play Mesut Ozil, drop Granit Xhaka from the squad and strip him of the armband as well.
However, Emery can not please all parties and either of the fans or the players would be left feeling a sense of dejection towards Emery at the end of the day. So indeed, it’s a tough nut to crack on who Emery gives his vote of confidence.
Granit Xhaka on his way out of the club?
It leaves us with the burning question of what next for Xhaka at the club? Emery did say he might need some time off the team for a bit and the reality of things remain that it’ll be harder for Xhaka to walk back into the Arsenal Xi both on a physical and mental level.
If Emery does drop the skipper for a few games and Arsenal then get a good run of results, Emery might perhaps be compelled to agree with the Arsenal fans that the 27-year-old is indeed not worthy of a place in the starting lineup. Xhaka, being a very egoistic person might not take the fall from grace likely and might consider an exit from the club.
The Swiss international has captained at every club he has played in and that influence spread to his national side as well. To then imagine himself be just a “normal” member of the squad and even a fringe player for that matter will surely have him making second thoughts on his future.