Granit Xhaka has been officially named Arsenal’s new permanent captain and Unai Emery has been quizzed on his decision to award the midfielder the armband.
Reports emerged on Friday morning that Xhaka, the Switzerland international, would skipper the Gunners on a full-time basis moving forward, having already been matchday captain on six separate occasions this season.
The suggestion Xhaka would become Arsenal captain was met with wide disbelief by the club’s support, given the midfielder is not a popular figure with fans due to his frequently below par performances.
Nonetheless, Emery used his press conference to confirm the rumours as true, saying: “Xhaka is mature. He has experience. In the dressing room, the players vote him as first.
“I trust and believe in him. His challenge is to change opinion, improve and give us help each time.”
However, wearing the armband does not guarantee Xhaka will play every game for Arsenal should he struggle on the pitch.
“The performance is giving me the next first XI, the next players to play… not the captains,” continued Emery.
Xhaka is the first-choice in Arsenal’s new five-man captaincy group, Emery confirmed, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil the remaining members.
The boss added on his decision to let the Arsenal squad vote for the club’s new captain: “I gave them some values, some qualities and attributes to decide on the captain. I used the vote because I want to know their opinions on that. After when I checked that I decided.
“I checked this week and the five captains after that are: Xhaka first, second is Aubameyang, third is Hector Bellerin, four is Lacazette and five is Mesut.”
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Emery also discussed the reaction to Xhaka’s captaincy, Arsenal’s injury news, and the tragic stabbing of fan Tashan Daniel during his press conference, and you can read the best bits, below…
On announcing Xhaka decision before Man United match
“Timing? One month ago they were here, [Laurent] Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, they were the captains. I decided in that moment to wait to use every player for that vote. When the last player left from here – [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan – I didn’t want a player who is not going to be here to do one vote.
“I waited for the moment we closed the squad to decide. In pre-season we had three captains, they were Xhaka, Monreal and Mesut. I said I want there to be five. After Monreal left and Mkhitaryan we did that.
“I said to the players from me, we can have five players with that armband and represent as a captain but you are also with the capacity to be the leaders in the dressing room and the pitch. Everybody should use that capacity to help the time.”
On Xhaka’s reaction to being named captain
“I don’t know why he’d be shocked. He is the first in the vote.”
On fans reacting to Xhaka being named captain
“First he’s mature. He has experience. We are living every time under pressure, under criticism, as a coach, as a player, as a club. But really the most important thing is to stand up each moment, go ahead with his qualities, with his behaviour, with his commitment.
“In the dressing room the players voted him as the first leader. I spoke with him and we want to change the opinion outside.
“That respect he has inside is very, very important. Each match is for him, for me, for us, a very good opportunity to show our capacity.
“But really I trust and believe in him. He is a good man. A good professional. A good player.
“Sometimes he makes mistakes, but the most important thing is to analyse, to learn and correct those mistakes.”
On the returns of Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney
“The Emirates on Tuesday with them was amazing, the reaction for Rob Holding, with Kieran Tierney, with Hector Bellerin playing the first 15 minutes after eight months.
“We can be a better competitive team with them. For us being available with every player is the perfect moment.
“Now we have two injuries, Lacazette and Emile Smith Rowe. Hopefully in a few weeks they can be training with us and available to play. We are really happy with Rob Holding, Hector and Kieran.”
On Tashan Daniel, the Arsenal fan killed on his way to a match earlier this week
“We are against all the violence. My thoughts are with his family.”