Granit Xhaka: Arsenal manager Unai Emery names midfielder as new captain


Unai Emery has called on Granit Xhaka to stand up and win over his dissenters in the Arsenal fan base after officially naming the midfielder as his club captain.

Xhaka’s appointment on a permanent basis comes just a week after the 27-year-old was jeered by his own supporters after being substituted in the second half of the 3-2 win over Aston Villa.

Xhaka is a hugely popular figure in the dressing room and received the support of his team-mates in a secret ballot which helped Emery to decide upon his five captains for the campaign. 

The Arsenal head coach likes to spread the responsibility across the squad and has appointed top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as his vice-captain.

The leadership group is completed by Hector Bellerin, the full-back who made his long-term return from injury this week, striker Alexandre Lacazette and midfielder Mesut Ozil, who was also one of last year’s five captains.

The overhaul of Emery’s captaincy group follows the departures of Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey and Petr Cech this summer. Nacho Monreal, another senior figure, also left at the end of the summer transfer window.

“He is mature, he has experience,” said Emery of Xhaka. “We are living all the time under pressure and criticism, as coaches and players. 

The most important thing is to stand up each moment, go ahead with his quality and behaviour and commitment. In the dressing room the players voted for him as first leader.”

Asked about the jeers directed towards Xhaka in the victory over Villa, Emery said: “I spoke with him. 

We want to change that opinion outside. The respect he has inside [the club] is very very important.”

Xhaka has also captained the Switzerland national team and was given the armband at Borussia Mönchengladbach when he was just 22 years old.

“Each match for him, and for me and for everyone, is a very good opportunity to show our capacity,” said Emery. “Really, I trust and believe in him. 

He is a good man, a good professional. Sometimes he makes mistakes, the most important thing is to learn and correct that.

“His challenge is to change that opinion, with personality and with improving each match and giving us his help every time.”

The decision to name the captaincy group was delayed by the transfer window, Emery said, as he did not want departing players such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mohamed Elneny to have a vote in the ballot.

Emery, who takes his side to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Monday, told his players the values and qualities he was looking for in his captaincy group before asking them to cast their votes.

“I used the vote because I wanted to know their opinion,” he said. “One month ago there was here Koscielny, Nacho [Monreal]. They were the captains. I decided in that moment [when they left] to wait and give time to decide and to use every player for that vote. The last player that left is Mkhitaryan. I didn’t want a player not here to vote. I waited until we closed the squad and then decide.

“I said to the players, for me we can all have the armband… you are all with the capacity to be the leader.”

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