Heightened emotions often reveal how we really feel about things so when Granit Xhaka was asked after the Europa League defeat to Chelsea if Unai Emery had taken Arsenal forward this season, his answer was surprisingly revealing rather than media-trained blandness.
Had Arsenal beaten Chelsea then their season would have been iewed as a success. As it stands, they missed out on their main target this season (qualifying for the Champions League), finished below Tottenham and, even though they registered more points than Arsene Wenger’s last season, they seemed to play worse football across the pitch.
Speaking after the game, Granit Xhaka was asked if the Spaniard had taken the team forward. Most would expect the players to back the coach, no matter how they truly felt, but Xhaka’s comments are more than a little revealing.
“I don’t know. I’m not the right person to give you an answer about this,” he reportedly said.”
He was then asked what Emery said in the dressing room.
“Him [Emery], the players, nobody speaks in the dressing room.” Pressed on why that might be he added, “I don’t know. He was disappointed of course.
“I think we know how we played. We know we lost the game.
“It is not about shouting. It is not about shouting everything if we lose.
“You can say a lot now but it is not the time to explain why and what happens.
“I think it was a big chance for us and we didn’t take it.”
Those last comments about the dressing room aren’t as damming as they are being made to seem. Context and tone are lost completely when spoen quotes are translated into text and I can be fairly confident Xhaka didn’t intend these quotes the way they have come across.
But the others, about Emery’s impact on the team this season? It’s hard to imagine they mean anything other than what they say and that’s from one of the players who has arguably benefitted from Emery’s arrival the most…