Granit Xhaka to Arsenal Fans: 'Let's Move Forward Positively Together'

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 27: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal reacts to the crowd after being substituted by Manager  Unai Emery during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium on October 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus)
Visionhaus/Getty Images

Granit Xhaka has posted a statement explaining his response to jeers from some Arsenal supporters when he was substituted during Sunday's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium. 

The Arsenal captain reacted angrily when he was booed off the pitch by certain occupants of the home end, but he defined his actions as a response to consistent goading and abuse from fans on and off the pitch:

Arsenal @Arsenal

The following is a message from Granit Xhaka... https://t.co/YG5lBKmQvi

The wording of Xhaka's statement is curious. It attempts to address issues on two fronts, with the Switzerland international making a call for unity, while also offering a rebuke of the more aggressively critical elements of the Arsenal fan base.

Recounting previous episodes of abuse on social media, including threats against his wife and daughter, the Arsenal captain has made a point of not absolving the role of some supporters in motivating his response.

Yet the Xhaka also wisely talked up "mutual respect." It's a sensible attempt to heal the fractious relationship between some frustrated supporters and elements of the Gunners' squad.

Shkodran Mustafi was jeered during pre-season action this summer, while star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was reportedly subjected to heckles when he left the stadium on Sunday, per Tom Kershaw of The Independent.

Certain Arsenal fans have grown increasingly frustrated by the club's lack of progress since Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger in the dugout in 2018. Wenger was viewed by many as the root cause of a lot of the problems at a club that last won the title in 2004, familiar failings are still present on Emery's watch.

bwin @bwin

Arsene Wenger's record in his final 47 PL games vs Unai Emery's first 47 PL games:🧐 Has Emery made Arsenal better? ❤️= yes 🔁= no https://t.co/Z9z37PZbzj

Xhaka has often borne the brunt of said frustrations as a symbol of longstanding problems. Competent in possession, the midfielder has been guilty of rash challenges and poor decisions off it.

Conceding a penalty in a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in the north London derby back in September was a prime example of Xhaka's penchant for self-destruction.

Coral @Coral

Granit Xhaka is a polarising figure and these stats show why 😳 👼 Most passes into final third 👼 Most tackles won 👿 Most times possession lost 👿 Most errors leading to goals Captain material and ticking time bomb, all at once. https://t.co/6YAa97rU9p

Yet despite his foibles, the man who helped Arsenal win an FA Cup in 2017 has found himself subjected to criticism that goes beyond what a player should be expected to take.

Reaching his limit left Xhaka emotional, according to Emery:

B/R Football @brfootball

Unai Emery says Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka is 'devastated' after fans booed him off the pitch at the Emirates https://t.co/ClX8JtWzP7

Meanwhile, Xhaka still retains the support of his team-mates, with backup goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saying the squad "have to support him and we are together," per the Guardian's Marcus Christenson.

Backing from the rest of the squad will be key while Emery decides whether or not to leave the captain's armband on Xhaka. Hector Bellerin was skipper for Wednesday's penalty shootout defeat to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final.

It makes sense for Emery to reduce some of the focus on Xhaka, even just in the short-term, by removing some responsibility from the 27-year-old.