Arsenal’s cheapest season ticket costs around £891. This price alone means that no Arsenal fan deserves to have one of their players act as Granit Xhaka did following his substitution against Crystal Palace. Taken off by Unai Emery, he was met with jeers from the Emirates crowd. In response, he waved and clapped sarcastically, appearing to say something unprintable to the baying audience.
However, even when one ignores the money involved, even considering the disrespect of these fans for one of their own, no player should behave so rashly, and especially not a captain. As professionals, footballers should be expected to act in a certain way towards the fans who, in a manner of speaking, pay their wages. Xhaka losing the captaincy would be totally justified and is possibly the best move Emery could make.
Xhaka is said to have earnt his position because his teammates voted for him, but the fact that he is captain is a reflection of his manager’s judgement. The Swiss midfielder’s actions highlight that he shouldn’t have been given the captaincy in the first place. When Emery joined Arsenal last season he had a CV which boasted success both domestically and on the European stage. He had a reputation as a tactically talented manager who wanted to promote attacking football. A perfect fit for the Gunners, one would think.
Buoyed by overblown optimism, every supporter’s poison of choice, it seemed that Arsenal were beginning a project to once again challenge for the Premier League title. However, the end of last season alongside the start of this one indicates that Emery’s vision for Arsenal is increasingly short-sighted. Following a £138 million investment from the club covering all positions on the pitch, Arsenal have seen no noticeable improvement.
Results like the loss to Sheffield United, the draw against Crystal Palace after squandering a two goal lead, and the defeat to Liverpool have led to criticism of Emery. Beyond this, many Arsenal fans point fingers at the manner in which Arsenal played in these games. Passing has been slow and the Spanish coach has been setting up the team without any creative flair in midfield, choosing to consistently leave out Mesut Ozil despite paying the player £350,000 per week.
As to whether or not Emery should be sacked, it still seems possible to keep him in the job. Besides the fact that there are few sufficiently distinguished managers available to replace Emery, he still has something to offer Arsenal. Arsenal are currently fifth in the Premier league, higher than both Tottenham and Manchester United, having only lost twice.
Furthermore, if Arsenal are to win silverware this season, the Europa League is a real possibility. Who better to win them that trophy than a man who was won it on three previous occasions?
Adding to this, Emery should be given a chance, now that he has something resembling a fully fit squad. With Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney returning to the team, Emery can now deploy attacking wing backs, a major aspect of his preferred tactical set-up. Arsenal can still improve, especially if club record signing Nicolas Pepe starts firing.
Emery hasn’t had the start to this season that he or the fans would have wanted. However, it would be unwise to dismiss him just as Arsenal are showing potential signs of revival. If anyone’s position should be considered right now, it’s Granit Xhaka’s.
Image: Ed g2s via Wikimedia Commons