Unai Emery has challenged Granit Xhaka to change opinions after he was recently made permanent Arsenal captain.
The combative 27-year-old Swiss midfielder has been a regular fixture under Emery and was recently chosen by his teammates to lead them on the field.
Captain Xhaka: Five key things to know…
- Unai Emery began the 2019/20 season without a permanent Arsenal captain.
- He opted to form a leadership group with the armband rotated.
- However, a vote was put to his team and they subsequently voted Granit Xhaka as their leader.
- Xhaka, who has made 140 appearances for the club, was not a popular choice among supporters.
- Emery has subsequently challenged him to change opinions and become a success.
However, the move hasn’t been met with universal enthusiasm with Xhaka currently enjoying a fractious relationship with sections of Arsenal’s support, with many feeling he shouldn’t be in their first team.
This sentiment, though, isn’t shared with those who occupy the Gunners dressing room. Emery began the season without a first-choice skipper and instead opted to form a leadership group with the armband being rotated.
But it wasn’t to last and Emery’s men subsequently voted for their new leader which as touched upon came as a surprise to those following the 13-time English champions. Not ambivalent to what’s happening outside, Emery has defended the decision and feels it’s up to Xhaka to change hearts and minds.
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“The most important thing is to stand up in each moment, go ahead and show his quality, with his behaviour, with his commitment,” he told reporters.
“In the dressing room, the players voted for him as the first [captain]. After, I spoke with him. We want to change that opinion [of Xhaka] outside because that respect that he has inside, is very, very important.
“And also show outside, [by] keep[ing] moving ahead, playing, improving, behaviour, commitment and each match for him, for me, for everybody, is a very good opportunity to show our capacity.
“I trust and believe in him and he is a good man, a good professional and a good player. Sometimes he has made a mistake, yes, but the most important thing is to analyse, to learn and to correct that in the future.
“His challenge, and our challenge, is to change that opinion and above all, show personality and improve in each match and give us his help every time. The first match is on Monday at Manchester United.”
‘An amazing moment’
As Emery stated Xhaka’s debut as permanent skipper will come at Old Trafford against Manchester United with whom the Gunners have enjoyed a long-standing rivalry in the Premier League era.
Matches in the past between the sides have often decided where the championship is heading, but recently it’s been nothing more than a battle for personal pride.
With the Red Devils amid a period of crisis, having won just one of their last five league outings, this could be Arsenal’s best opportunity to end a 13-year wait to win at the Theatre of Dreams.
“It’s an amazing moment, an amazing match between these two teams in the past, the present and the future,” he added.
“Each match when I watched in Spain, Arsenal v Manchester United, Manchester United v Arsenal, was a special moment.
“I think Monday at eight o’clock, all around the world, if someone wants to watch a football match, it’s this one.
“We really want to play matches where we can do something important. We are preparing well. The players are wishing to play the next match – we know it’s a very big opportunity for us to get three points.”