Granit Xhaka has backed team-mate Alexandre Lacazette for the vacant captain’s armband at Arsenal following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being stripped of his status as dressing-room leader.
Aubameyang, 32, was recently relieved of his duties as club captain by Mikel Arteta following his latest disciplinary breach, relinquishing the armband earlier this month, which have also led to uncertainties about his future at the Emirates.
In the Gabon international’s absence, Lacazette has stepped up as temporary skipper and the Gunners have enjoyed a scintillating run of form in that time, winning five games on the bounce, including a 5-1 win over Sunderland in the League Cup quarter-final.
Xhaka himself has been integral to that rich vein of form. The Switzerland international previously held the captain’s armband himself, before being stripped of his title after an emotive exchange with fans during a 2019 Premier League encounter with Crystal Palace.
The 29-year-old has now thrown his weight behind Lacazette for the permanent role of club captain, believing the Frenchman has all the requisite attributes of an on-pitch leader, though the endorsement may come as a shock given the forward’s contract expires at the end of the season.
“Sometimes two or three of us chat and ask ourselves and each other what we can do better. This leadership group is very, very positive,” Xhaka told The Athletic.
“At the moment it its easy because everyone is happy while we are winning games. But we know difficult times will come again. There is a right time to make sure to be together.
“When something is not going well that is when the leadership group is most important to protect the players, protect the group, and look after the belief to help us to stay positive.
“At the moment Laca is our captain and I am more than happy for him.
“He is a very important person for us on and off the pitch. He is a lovely boy. He has a lot of respect from other players and a lot of experience over the years.
“I believe you need a player like this. He is always here. He is never too late. A lot of discipline. He is a funny guy. He is very open and you can speak with him whenever you want. I believe at the moment he is the right person to be our captain.”