Granit Xhaka has endured untold criticism from certain sections of the clubs support since his arrival in the summer of July 2016. Xhaka was signed from Borussia Monchengladbach for a fee reported to have been in the region of £40m and came with a huge reputation but it’s safe to say, generally speaking, his performances have failed to match the hype.
On Sunday, during the Premier League clash between Arsenal and Crystal Palace his relationship with the fans reached breaking point and you wonder whether Xhaka’s reaction to the ironic cheering and abuse he received means he’s played his last game for the club.
Xhaka’s actions were unacceptable
As the number 34 was displayed on the fourth officials board, ironic cheers rung around the stadium, provoking Xhaka and fans hurling abuse at him for strolling off the pitch pushed him over the edge. The player in his frustration removed the captains armband before dropping it on the floor and began goading the supporters as he slowly made his way off the pitch. Xhaka, visibly angry, appeared to respond to the crowd with some expletives before removing his shirt and storming down the tunnel.
That certainly wasn’t the behaviour of a captain, let alone one of a club the size of Arsenal. Wearing the armband is a privilege that Xhaka has, in the eyes of the supporters, completely disrespected.
Xhaka reacted to months of abuse, not the fact he was substituted on Sunday
The Swiss international was recently named as the clubs new captain following the summer departure of Laurent Koscielny. Whilst the supporters were divided on who should take up the responsibility, the reality is most were disappointed to hear the players had voted for Xhaka. Unai Emery’s decision to put it to a player vote raised eyebrows and was criticised by many however that’s a separate debate.
Having said that, it would be naive to think the midfielder’s reaction was based solely on the crowd’s reaction on Sunday. The fragile relationship between the 27-year-old and the supporters has taken months to reach this level of toxicity; it’s been boiling under the surface and it should be of no surprise that it’s finally broken down.
There were ironic cheers when he was substituted versus Aston Villa back in September and there was more of the same from the away section at Bramall Lane last Monday night. Xhaka’s reaction was almost certainly in light of a series of events that have totally destroyed the relationship between the player and supporters.
The former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder was forced to disable comments on his social media accounts earlier in the year as a result of the vitriol and personal abuse he and his family have been on the receiving end of.
Emery’s poor management has fuelled the Xhaka hate
Emery’s failure to find a midfield balance has left certain individuals exposed, none more so than Xhaka. The clubs defensive issues have been well documented and having conceded 14 goals in 10 games, the supporters are justified in criticising the central defensive pair but there is a strong case to suggest the issues stem from further up the field.
There are very few who would deny Xhaka has the ability to spray a pass or hit a venomous shot from the edge of the penalty area which begs the question around why he’s constantly deployed in front of the back four and not given the license to showcase his talents further up the field.
There’s no excusing the moments of madness, the needless fouls and the attitude displayed on Sunday but placing square pegs in round holes will only get you so far. Emery’s decisions are being questioned right throughout the fan base and it seems Xhaka, along with Mesut Ozil have fallen victim to the manager’s bizarre methodology.