Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka has broken his silence on his clash with supporters during the Gunners 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace which saw the Swiss midfielder stripped of the club captaincy.
Xhaka was substituted in the second half by manager Unai Emery and was met with a chorus of jeers from the Emirates faithful as he left the pitch. This led to him appearing to swear at the home supporters and cupping his hand to his ear.
The midfielder has missed the last four games for Arsenal, losing the captaincy to Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. Emery has even suggested that Xhaka may never play for the club again.
In an interview with Swiss publication Blick, Xhaka explained his actions outlining that he still cannot understand the reaction and ‘extreme hostility’ that was directed towards him by Arsenal fans.
“When my shirt number lit up on the fourth official’s panel and our own fans broke into gleeful jubilation, that hit me very hard and really upset me,” Xhaka said. “It was very hurtful and frustrating.
“I can’t understand a reaction like that even now, especially the vehemence of it and the extreme hostility directed against me. I don’t mean to say that I can’t take criticism. If the team and I don’t play well, we must listen and work on it.
“But insulting and swearing at your own captain will cause upset and a bad atmosphere for the team you are actually supposed to be supporting. That makes no sense to me and weakens the team’s spirit.”
Xhaka continued by explaining that despite suggestions that he may leave the club in January he is fully behind the team.
“Some of my team-mates came to see me and that was great. They encouraged me to not let it get me down. Above all they pointed out how many Arsenal fans around the world didn’t like the way the fans reacted in the stadium and condemned it.
“We’re talking about football and a captaincy. I know that means the world to a lot of people here in London and I’ve been 100 per cent behind the club and my role as a player since I came here. I’m proud to be playing for this big club.”
Aubameyang has taken over the captain’s role at the club but according to David Ornstein, writing in The Athletic, the decision has divided opinion with the Xhaka said to be “generally well-regarded by players and staff.”
There has also been criticism levelled at Aubmeyang for his relationship with ‘Arsenal FanTV’ which according to Ornstein many people believe ‘has contributed to an upsurge in negativity towards the team and specific players from sections of the support.’
“Sources suggest Aubameyang was “so smart” to strike up a rapport with the channel and express a view that in “promoting” the content, he is effectively endorsing and encouraging more of it to be produced, and making himself immune to criticism even if his performance level drops.”