Unai Emery says that Granit Xhaka is “devastated and sad” to have been booed off the Emirates Stadium field by his own fans during the Gunners’ 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Sunday, and admitted the Arsenal captain’s title could be stripped after Xhaka swore at the crowd and removed his shirt as he was being substituted.
The fans loudly booed Xhaka, who was only named captain last month, following another subpar performance from the Swiss international, prompting him to incite further hostilities from the crowd. The fans had just seen Arsenal throw away a 2-0 lead they held after just nine minutes.
Speaking ahead of his side’s League Cup round of 16 clash with Premier League leaders on Wednesday, Emery was asked about the ongoing situation and offered the following assessment, including his own advice to Xhaka that he should apologize to the fans for his reaction — quotes from the Guardian:
“He is now devastated — devastated and sad. We spoke yesterday, and also on Sunday night. This morning he trained as normal with the group but he is devastated and sad about the situation.
“His commitment with the club is a great commitment every time. He wants to help. His behavior was perfect in training, with the group and with the club. He knows he was wrong. He was wrong and he feels it inside very deeply. But that is normal as a human. You need, and every player needs, the supporters’ support.”
“What is the response we are seeing? It’s that he is devastated and very down. First is to recover him, his feelings. We need our family, our friends, our supporters to support us, like us, love us. He is not feeling that with the supporters. But we are speaking with him first to be calm and be close with his family, and be close with us because we are your family too.”
“I think when we make individual mistakes we need to make apologies for the circumstances. I prefer to do that. We suggest to him to do it.”
Xhaka is expected to be fined by the club, though Emery also said, “I think we can [later] speak about [a fine.] We are in the first step after his mistake. Now is to recover him as a person.” As for whether or not the captaincy will be taken away from Xhaka, the squad’s chosen leader, and bestowed upon someone else, Emery says that decision will be handled “step by step” going forward.
The 27-year-old midfielder won’t be part of the Arsenal squad that visits Anfield on Wednesday, but Emery says that was always the plan, to rotate the squad with the League Cup considered a secondary competition.