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So, who made Xhaka captain?

OPINION: It feels like Arsenal fans found Granit Xhaka out a long time ago – but Wenger and Emery have persisted in sending him out to get slaughtered

31 October, 2019 — By Steve Barnett

Granit Xhaka

A FEW weeks ago, Ian Wright was having a cup of something outside a café in Dartmouth Park and one of the reporters thought it would be fun to ask him to be photographed reading this column.

He needed some arm-twisting and insisted on a social media ban for the photo, and we all wondered why this carefree pundit seemed so edgy about the whole thing.

Then, we looked again at the column and realised it was a searing, should-be-award-winning take on why Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery both seem strangely seduced by Granit Xhaka. Wright could not be seen endorsing a column which was so uncharitable to the Arsenal captain.

That was then. Now we have reached the stage where criticism of Xhaka no longer has to be reserved for the pub.

We can all say it. The man just effed us off.

And Wright was now on TV calling for him to apologise after his slow-walk substitution and then the removal of the shirt.

It’s OK if you want to get high and mighty about the savage nature of booing on your own man; I personally believe, at the matchday prices they pay, supporters should be able to reserve the right to heckle and the level of angst brought by Xhaka’s continued participation in the midfield is enough to bring most people to the boil.

To me, sadly, the midfielder has come to represent these misfiring years, a couple of masterblaster free-kicks failing to mask the silly fouls and penalties, and the inability to drive the team on when things aren’t going well.

And yet, despite all of this, it’s ultimately not Xhaka’s fault. No. In this blame game, you have to look at the men who promoted him beyond his capabilities, the current manager and the last.

If you are the player in that position – or a worker in any job – you are not going to say: “Don’t give me extra money and responsibility, please no, I don’t think I can do it at this level.”

More likely, you will accept the job and carry on regardless until somebody rumbles you as an impostor at a top-level club – or workplace.

It feels like Xhaka was found out a long time ago but Wenger and Emery kept putting him out to get slaughtered.

Wenger seemed insistent that he could prove that his big-money buy could one day be the new Patrick Vieira after all, even if it takes 400 appearances to get there.

Emery does not seem to get many of the players in the right holes, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he has persevered with a player who simply has not been able to justify a mainstay place in a team that thinks it should be playing in the Champions League.

In the end, it’s the player that loses out when the fans – and pundits – turn.


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