Granit Xhaka explains anger at Arsenal fans who booed him
Last Updated: 01/11/19 11:57am
Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka has given an explanation of why he gestured towards fans and swore at them, after he was jeered as he was substituted during their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
Xhaka has come under criticism in some quarters for his reaction to supporters as he was replaced by Bukayo Saka after 61 minutes of the game at the Emirates on Sunday.
In a statement on Arsenal's official Twitter page, he revealed he and his family had been targeted on social media, which had seen him reach a "boiling point".
"After taking some time to reflect on what happened on Sunday afternoon, I would like to give you an explanation rather than a quick response," the statement read.
"The scenes that took place around my substitution have moved me deeply. I love this club and will always give 100 per cent on and off the pitch.
"My feeling of not being understood by fans, and repeated abusive comments at matches and in social media over the last weeks and months have hurt me deeply.
"People have said things like "we will break your legs", 'kill your wife' and 'wish that your daughter gets cancer'.
"That has stirred me up and I reached boiling point when I felt the rejection in the stadium on Sunday.
"In this situation, I let myself be carried away and reacted in a way that disrespected the group of fans that supports our club, our team and myself with positive energy. That is not my intention and I'm sorry if that's what people thought.
"My wish is that we get back to a place of mutual respect, remembering why we fell in love with this game in the first place. Let's move forward positively together.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery left Xhaka out of their Carabao Cup fourth round penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday night, after revealing on Tuesday that the player was "sad" and "devastated" at the reaction.
It is unclear whether Xhaka will return to the Arsenal squad for Saturday's game against Wolves.
Analysis: Statement 'doesn't feel natural'
Charlie Nicholas told Sky Sports News:
"It's not pleasant - it's a horrible situation. I'm not a social media man at all, because of all the bile that's out there. But the real issue for me is not the sheep who follow in this debate. It's a footballing debate.
"It's a footballing debate that Granit Xhaka is Arsenal captain, and his behaviour was unacceptable when he left the pitch. He showed his emotions and he'd been angry. He's still angry, and I understand that.
"There's a certain amount of sympathy and I feel for him, with what he's having to go through because, let's be honest, every footballer makes mistakes. Every manager makes mistakes, and fans make mistakes.
"They've hammered people like (Dennis) Bergkamp, and many greater players than Granit Xhaka in the past - and that is part and parcel ultimately of being a footballer at the top level.
"If I think of Arsenal captains of the past - Frank McLintock and Tony Adams - they would have sat there and faced the music. They would've fronted it up [if they were still playing now] on Arsenal TV to apologise... this is the reason why I'm apologising and this is what I was thinking.
"The fact that it's still a statement tells me that it's the club who have been asking for it. He was back in training today, so he could've sat down with Arsenal TV and said, 'here's how I feel. I really must apologise. In time, we will move on and we will get around the corner'.
"But it just doesn't feel natural to me that it is a genuine understanding of the situation. I still think there's too much anger in there. I don't know if he'll ever play again, if I'm being honest."
Sky Sports' Gary Neville:
"I struggle with Xhaka full stop, I'll be honest with you. I just think it's his ill-discipline in his performances generally over a period of the last two or three years.
"I've never watched a player who seems to learn less from his experiences than Xhaka.
"He makes what must be four hundred mistimed tackles a match. He essentially gets booked every time I watch him, I don't watch him every single game but every game I do watch he gets booked.
"He doesn't seem to set the tone for the rest of his team-mates with his performance levels. So, what happened on Sunday doesn't surprise me.
"He does give his all, he's committed. There's no doubt about that. You can see someone there. But he's the least experienced experienced player I've ever watched. He's rash.
"I've got no problem with this idea of taking on your fans or a bit of tension. It's never great, it's not healthy. But actually, in football, that can happen.
"I have a bigger problem, watching him, with his performance levels, the way he doesn't perform and doesn't carry his team on the pitch."
Sky Sports' Paul Merson:
"Xhaka's behaviour was shocking but at the same time, he's hurt. He's the captain, he's getting booed off the pitch, the fans are going mad and it's the heat of the moment.
"It's not nice and no one wants to get booed off the pitch, I don't care who you are. You could be the best player in the world and even Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi wouldn't like to be booed off the pitch.
"Looking back now, in the heat of the moment, you're the captain and usually the last people to come off are the captains, then the crowd take it out on him. If he could have that one moment back, he probably wouldn't do it, but it's heat of the moment stuff. I'm one of his biggest critics but he does care. I've seen some people come off pitches and they don't care, they fly off and run faster off the pitch than they did during the game.
"It's a hard one for the club because Unai Emery rates him, he's the one player who plays every week so I would have thought Emery will want this to blow over really. I don't think it will be an Ozil situation where he says 'that's it, you're not playing for the club again'.
"I wouldn't have him as captain. I would've had David Luiz as captain, which I said all along. Luiz plays every week, he's won everything in the game so you don't win everything in the game by being no good. I don't know about being a leader but he's a winner, he's been in winning teams and I've always said that he should have been the captain."