Unai Emery has called on supporters to get off the Granit Xhaka’s back, clearly unaware that the Swiss midfielder is attracting a lot of negative energy that would otherwise be sent Unai Emery’s direction.
Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa with just 10 men tells only part of the story from a frustrating Sunday afternoon that only turned out well because they were playing relegation fodder. Problems that have been in evidence since Emery’s arrival continue to dominate and it’s not clear he knows how to fix them.
Reaching for conservative subs when needing to chase the game, Emery somehow fluked a result thanks to two players who had started – Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It was the former’s drive that hauled Arsenal forward, and the latter’s class that won the game.
After the match, Emery was at pains that people stop picking on his captain-to-be.
“We need our supporters and we need them helping each player,” Emery told reporters at his post-match press conference.
“It is our responsibility to transmit our commitment and Xhaka is doing this.”
“He played very well on Thursday (in Frankfurt) and last week at Watford he did well. Here, I changed him because he played for 90 minutes on Thursday and I wanted to bring fresh players on.
“But Xhaka is a very important player for us. He has a big commitment here, he is improving. I am not asking people to support him but I assure you he is going to achieve his best things if the supporters help him.
“We are professional, Xhaka is an experienced player, he knows sometimes we can receive criticism and we need to be mature and continue working.
“For me he is a very important player and I am going to support him. I am going to decide when he plays and when he doesn’t but he is important for us because his commitment and behaviour are great and he is a good player.”
Before he was subbed off, Granit Xhaka had played one key pass and made one tackle. He’d made no clearances, interceptions, or blocks and had given away two fouls, one of them incredibly lazy that lead to his third yellow in five league games.
Xhaka isn’t a bad player, he’s just not a top, top level one. He is not a player you build your team around, nor is he whom Arsenal should be given the armband too when he makes more mistakes leading to goals than anyone else.