Has there been as much speculation and talk about anything else?
Granit Xhaka’s actions after being booed off the field has sparked so many social media tweets and posts, has fuelled pundits going into overdrive over the many different facets of the incident and the result?
People are still split over it.
Let us look at the entirety of the moment. Xhaka’s number came up on the board to be subbed off for Bukayo Saka, as Unai Emery opted for more attacking potency in the face of Crystal Palace clawing back the scores to 2-2.
There were cheers when his number came up – this much is clear.
Then, what should have happened is our club captain running off the field as quickly as possible to allow the change to take place, saving valuable seconds in our chase to recapture the lead.
Instead, he trudged off slowly.
This is the moment the boos increased, ringing around the stadium. And this is when Xhaka mockingly applauded the crowd, gesticulated to the fans that he wanted to hear them louder, cupped his ear and then clearly swore.
The boos still ringing around the stadium, he took his shirt off – he didn’t throw his shirt – and walked straight down the tunnel.
Now there can be no argument that this behaviour is not befitting what a club captain should be doing. They are meant to be the one carrying the values of the club onto the pitch, and making sure the others have an example to follow.
This didn’t materialise, and we are allowed to criticise, which is part and parcel of the game and being a supporter.
But when did we become a fanbase that boos our own skipper, our own player?
Since when did that galvanise the troops? The bottom line is that if they are wearing our shirt, we support. The vilification Xhaka has had to endure on the pitch, on social media – he and his wife have had to mute comments, such is the hate they have received – from Arsenal ‘fans.’
Both Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery have both planted their trust in this man on the pitch. Do we know more than these two? Xhaka also has the support of his teammates, who have since been round the Swiss star’s home to support him. So he is the right choice for captain – the fact the squad voted for him to have the armband shows it is the right choice.
Nothing excuses his behaviour toward the stands, but we must also look at ourselves and see that this fanbase is among the most toxic there is. Because Emery has opted for him as skipper, xhaka has now also taken on some of the heat that is directed at the misfiring Emery. He is Emery’s choice, and so he is another direction to hurl the critique at.
The whole thing is a mess, and will have ripples through the squad and for the foreseeable future.
The sooner this can be rectified, the better, but where do we go from here?