Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Granit Xhaka accuses Arsenal fans of creating a 'bad atmosphere' as substitution row continues

Former club captain believes there is 'no justification' for the way he was treated during the game against Crystal Palace

Granit Xhaka has accused Arsenal supporters of "abnormal and excessive" behaviour following the jeers aimed at the midfielder during the match against Crystal Palace last month.

During the 2-2 draw with Palace on October 27, Xhaka was substituted in the 61st minute, and as he made his way off the pitch, the crowd inside the Emirates Stadium began to boo and jeer.

Xhaka reacted by cupping his hand to his ear, mouthing an obscenity towards the supporters, throwing away his captain's armband, snubbing his manager's handshake and furiously ripping off his shirt.

The Switzerland international quickly released a statement on social media in an attempt to justify his actions, but fell short of a full apology. Instead, he admitted he had reached "boiling point", making particular reference to the abuse aimed at his family.

Since then, Xhaka has not appeared in any of Arsenal's squads and has been relieved of the captaincy, with striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang taking the armband.

Now in an interview with Swiss newspaper Blick, midfielder Xhaka has doubled down on the reasons for his reaction and appears to hit out at Arsenal fans for causing a "bad atmosphere" around the club.

"When my shirt number lit up on the fourth official's panel and our own fans broke into gleeful jubilation, that hit me very hard and really upset me," he said.

"It was very hurtful and frustrating. I can't understand a reaction like that even now, especially the vehemence of it and the extreme hostility directed against me.

"At a time you are already experiencing a lot of hostility and your own football family insults you, it hurts a lot.

"I don't mean to say that I can't take criticism. But insulting and swearing at your own captain will cause a bad atmosphere for the team you are actually supposed to be supporting. That makes no sense to me and weakens the team's spirit."

Arsenal have endured a tumultuous start to the season following a run of just two wins from their past 10 Premier League games. The 2-0 defeat at Leicester City on Saturday evening saw the Gunners slip to sixth in the Premier League table, eight points off the top four.

It has led to increasingly louder calls for manager Unai Emery to be sacked, with reports this week claiming Arsenal have made contact with former Spain and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique to sound out his interest in the role.

Granit Xhaka is substituted during Arsenal's match against Crystal Palace. Getty Images
Granit Xhaka is substituted during Arsenal's match against Crystal Palace. Getty Images

On the pitch, Xhaka has been one of the key targets for the fans' displeasure and the midfielder has called for calm before the situation escalates out of control.

"You could say things have been a bit frantic. Last week in particular was a very special emotional experience for me," Xhaka said.

"I've been 100 per cent behind the club and my role as a player since I came here. I've said how much it means to me on more than one occasion.

"But we're at a point now where I have to say clearly that we ought to take stock and make sure that things are not getting completely out of hand.

"If I get constructive criticism or even more vehement insults, I try to take them calmly and objectively. But what happened here is abnormal and excessive and there can be no justification for it."

Despite the mess surrounding Xhaka, with Emery even suggesting he could have played his last game for Arsenal, he said he is determined to prove his worth to the club.

"After a difficult start, I played a lot and overall I've had a great time at Arsenal," he said. "My family and I also feel very well in the city of London. The events of the last week don't change that at all.

"I'll continue to stay positive, give my all to an even greater extent and prove that I'm an important part of this great team."

After the international break - during which Xhaka will captain Switzerland at two Euro 2020 qualifiers against Georgia and Gibraltar - Arsenal are next in action against Southampton on November 23 in the Premier League.

Updated: November 11, 2019 01:32 PM

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