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Emery: Granit Xhaka ‘devastated’ by Sunday’s events

The manager had a lot to say.

Arsenal FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Granit Xhaka reacted angrily to the Arsenal supporters after he was substituted against Crystal Palace.
Photo by Visionhaus

Not surprisingly, Granit Xhaka was the subject of more than half of Unai Emery’s press conference on Tuesday at London Colney. The manager spoke about Xhaka’s actions, a potential apology, how Xhaka is feeling emotionally, his place in the squad going forward, and whether he would retain the captaincy. We’ll just give you the nuts and bolts of what was said — we’ve got more analysis coming later this week.

Unai Emery started his press conference talking about the emotional toll Sunday’s incident had and was continuing to have on Granit Xhaka, and he kept coming back to it even as the questions shifted to practical matters like playing time and the captaincy.

He is now devastated, devastated and sad. This morning, he trained as normal with the group but he is devastated and he is sad about the situation. His commitment with the club is a great commitment every time. He wants to help...He knows he was wrong. He was wrong and he feels it inside very deeply. But that is normal as a human. You need – and every player needs - the supporters’ support. Support them, support the team.

Emery explained that Xhaka’s devastation comes not only from the incident at the weekend but also from a general feeling that the supporters don’t like him. Emery acknowledged that abuse on social media affects players’ and the team’s “emotional balance” and “confidence.”

A quick check of Granit Xhaka’s Instagram account reveals some of the worst parts of humanity in the comments. On a picture of him holding his newborn daughter, people said things ranging from “stay with her, we don’t need you on the pitch” to some truly vile, awful things that I will not reprint here.

Emery emphasized that Arsenal are a family and that it is important for that family to come together to help heal Granit Xhaka and to get him back to his best self and mental state so that he can succeed on the pitch but more importantly, thrive as a man. For Emery, the supporters are a part of that family.

We need our family, our friends, our supporters to support us, like us. Love us, everybody. He is not feeling that with the supporters. But we are speaking with him to first be calm and be close with his family and be close with us because we are your family too. Be close and we are going to try to be close with our supporters and this is a step, little-by-little, towards that in this moment.

Emery was also unequivocally clear throughout his press conference that he thought Xhaka’s actions on Sunday were wrong. He referenced Xhaka’s “mistake” at least three times in different answers, said that Xhaka was wrong both as a player and as a captain, and thinks that Xhaka should apologize for his actions.

Yes. I think when we make individual mistakes, we need to make apologies for the circumstances. I prefer to do that. We suggest to him to do it.

Emery did not give any hints as to Xhaka’s status as captain moving forward or whether he has been or would be fined by the club. He dodged the questions when asked, saying that the first step was to help Xhaka recover from the emotional impact of the situation and that the captaincy was a question for later.

I don’t know not today how it will be in the future, the most important for me is the present, with the future tomorrow. Tomorrow, for example, he is not in the group but I wasn’t thinking for him for that match [anyway] and he stays here and trains and we are going to let him recover as a person because he is down and then think about the team.

When asked about Xhaka’s future with the club more generally, Emery mentioned that there have been similar situations in the past where players had been criticized, had bounced back, and had repaired the relationship with the supporters.

The most important is to keep moving ahead, working, improving and showing and transmitting to people that if one moment they don’t like him, to work to change that situation.