Granit Xhaka's captaincy hangs in the balance at Arsenal. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Reuters
Granit Xhaka's captaincy hangs in the balance at Arsenal. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Reuters

Xhaka's fate in hands of players

By SAMI MOKBEL FOOTBALL NEWS CORRESPONDENT Time of article published Oct 29, 2019

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Granit Xhaka was clinging to the Arsenal captaincy last night, with manager Unai Emery ready to consult his players before deciding whether the midfielder should keep the armband.

Emery is fearful of a backlash if he strips the Switzerland international of the captaincy. Xhaka is one of the most popular members of the squad, having been elected skipper by the squad earlier this season. Emery is set to discuss the issue with his players before making a final decision on whether Xhaka stays in the role.

Having been given yesterday off, Arsenal’s players will return to the club’s London Colney training ground today for the first time since Xhaka antagonised home supporters while being substituted in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.

He appeared to tell the fans to ‘f*** off’ in response to being booed. 

Emery refused to confirm if Xhaka would remain  captain — revealing he would hold discussions with the club’s hierarchy before deciding.The first of those meetings took place yesterday, with Emery and technical director Edu understood to be involved. But the players’  opinions will also be gauged before a decision is made.

The position of club captain is not viewed as so important on the continent as it is in England, underlined by Spaniard Emery’s decision to let the players vote on who should wear the armband. But there are concerns within the club that Emery has misjudged the importance of the captaincy since he arrived at the start of last season.

There is understood to be a reluctance in the technical staff to strip Xhaka of the captaincy — despite Emery saying the Swiss was wrong to react as he did on Sunday. However, if Xhaka was to decide  he no longer wants to be captain, sources say Emery would accept his decision. 

There was hope at the club yesterday that Xhaka would say sorry for his actions on Sunday. But a public apology was not forthcoming last night.

Spaniards Hector Bellerin and Dani Ceballos took to social media yesterday to call on fans to support the side following the toxic atmosphere on Sunday.

However, Sportsmail understands Emery is facing difficulties in convincing his player of his methods. Sources claim there is often confusion from members of the playing staff over Emery’s instructions on  a day-to-day basis at the training ground and in matches.

There is also concern in the squad that his tactics have stifled a team who were once famed for their  creativity. Indeed, his marginalisation of Mesut Ozil has been privately questioned by a contingent of  players, who believe the German still has quality to offer. It leaves Emery, whose contract runs until the summer, facing a huge challenge to fully convince the Gunners hierarchy that he is the right man to lead the club beyond this season.

Emery’s job is under no immediate threat — but the 47-year-old’s position will be in significant danger if he fails to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Daily Mail

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