Unai Emery says he’s had a conversation with Granit Xhaka since the midfielder’s return from international duty and suggests reintegration is now on the agenda.
In the last couple of days, quotes emerged from Xhaka on international duty suggesting he would need to ‘sort matters out’ when he returned to Arsenal, and he was still searching for a ‘solution’ with the club.
That didn’t sound too promising, but Unai Emery has since told his pre-Southampton press conference (via Arsenal) that they’ve had their conversation and the objective now is the player’s comeback and reconnecting with the fans.
“I spoke to him this morning and we had a very good conversation,” Emery said. “He trained very well before the international break and he trained very well this morning.
“My objective is going to be his comeback to help us and convince every supporter of his commitment with us and his performances will be better and they will be proud of him in the short or long future with us. That is my objective, and what I am working towards.
“He is feeling better and also feeling that his team is Arsenal now. He wants to come back with confidence with the supporters, and we are going to decide. But I think little by little we can help him come back and connect with us and our supporters.”
Obviously, the main question on everyone’s mind at the moment is whether that means Xhaka will be making a return to the team as soon as Saturday’s game against Southampton. On that subject, Emery stayed relatively guarded.
“We are going to decide tomorrow [whether he will be in the squad for Saturday] but I want to do that comeback, give him confidence and make him comfortable. And when we can connect with our supporters with a good moment and a good performance and being strong with them.”
My best guess is that Xhaka will be involved in the squad on the bench, but he won’t start.
That way Emery can decide whether to reintroduce him or not depending on how the game is going. It will also make it publicly obvious that Xhaka is back involved without the added pressure of sticking him out there on the pitch immediately.
If he starts, let’s just hope he doesn’t make any mistakes and the fans don’t turn on him again.