The Gunners saw a two-goal lead slip as Crystal Palace fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at the Emirates
It was a moment that perfectly captured the unrest at Arsenal right now.
The captain walking off the pitch, ears cupped while clearly telling thousands of his own fans to ‘f*ck off’ as they hurled abuse in his direction as he made his way to the touchline to be substituted.
Granit Xhaka wasn’t a popular choice as skipper before Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, but now you wonder if irreversible damage has been done to the relationship between him and the Arsenal fans.
There wasn’t even a handshake for Unai Emery as Xhaka went off, the midfielder just stripped off his shirt and headed straight down the tunnel to the changing room as the boos rang out.
For a club of the stature of Arsenal, this was an awful incident – an embarrassing one that will be shown and dissected all around the world. But it was symbolic of all that has been wrong at the club right now.
It stems from a feeling of frustration that has been increasing by the week. Frustration towards Emery, the style of football, Mesut Ozil’s absence and now a run of poor results.
Emery called for patience following the defeat at Sheffield United on Monday night, but there has been very little of that on show at the Emirates right now.
The pressure may have eased slightly on Arsenal’s under-fire coach after Nicolas Pepe’s match-winning cameo in the Europa League on Thursday night, but it has been right back on the Spaniard now.
Arsenal now sit four points adrift of the top four following this draw and on current form they look a million miles off the likes of Leicester or Chelsea.
This has been a club that has been desperate to return to the Champions League. The business model relies on it, but it has been going to take a major improvement for them to get there.
Stan Kroenke’s son, Josh, was in the directors’ box this afternoon, while his father was a few miles away at Wembley watching his NFL team, the LA Rams, in action.
The conversation between the two on their flight back across the Atlantic could be an interesting one.
Is Emery the man to take the club forward? Is he getting anywhere near enough from this squad of players? At the moment, the answer seems to be a clear no.
Even after goals from Sokratis and David Luiz had given the hosts a 2-0 lead inside 10 minutes, they couldn’t see the game out against Crystal Palace.
A Luka Milivojevic penalty had reduced the deficit before half-time and then Jordan Ayew levelled on 52 minutes after Xhaka had allowed James McArthur to whip in a cross from the right.
Arsenal thought they had won it late on when Sokratis thumped home a loose round ball from Pepe’s corner five minutes from the end, but the goal was ruled out after a VAR check – with Calum Chambers deemed to have committed a foul before Sokratis’ finish.
Article continues below
Replays showed it was an incredibly harsh decision, but the way things are going for Emery right now it was perhaps no surprise to see the goal chalked off.
Arsenal stay fifth in the Premier League, but they are now playing catch up on Leicester and Chelsea in the race for the Champions League spots – two teams who have a clear identity and a way of playing.
It’s a worrying situation for Emery. The Spaniard was already facing questions about his own future and now his captain has only added to his growing list of problems.