The former Gunners midfielder feels the Switzerland international has a tough task to salvage his Emirates Stadium career
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka should be stripped of the captaincy, shut his mouth and work hard to win back respect, says former Gunners ace Emmanuel Petit.
Xhaka has been under fire after he reacted to the jeers of the fans by storming off mouthing obscenities after being substituted against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Petit, speaking exclusively to Paddy Power News , admitted: “I have never seen something like what happened with Granit Xhaka before. For me, he can’t be the Arsenal captain any longer. It’s impossible. What he did was unacceptable.
“What he did on the pitch has been one thing, I’ve made it clear that I don’t know what he adds to the team. But what Xhaka did as he left the pitch has been totally different. You can’t do that – it’s like betrayal in England.”
Now Petit believes Xhaka has a massive task on his hands to win back the faith of fans and players alike and save his career at the Emirates Stadium.
“If I were to talk to Xhaka, I would say: ‘You are doing the most exciting job in the world, and you have to make sacrifices. You must understand that, when you play for a big club like Arsenal, and are captain on top of that, you must be an example on and off the pitch. Right now, you’re not. So, lay down. Don’t answer any questions that might be a problem – just shut your mouth, work, and try to get back the fans’ and players’ confidence. This has been the toughest game you will have to play since becoming a soccer professional’.”
Petit thinks Xhaka has so much to learn about what has been needed to lead such a big club in England and how passionate the fans are.
“I played with guys like Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira – real leaders, big captains – and they showed the personality and character of what it means to be Arsenal captain, whatever happened on the pitch.
“Adams and Vieira always respected the fans – I don’t think Xhaka understands what it means to be a supporter in England.
“He doesn’t know the love those people have for the club and the players, they always support you. I appreciate my time in England because of that.
“I have witnessed fans booing players before, of course, but not like this. The anger was something else. It’s clear, they don’t want Xhaka to play for Arsenal anymore.
“It’s very difficult for the Arsenal fans to forgive Xhaka. They don’t want him to play for their club anymore.
“To pass over what happened would be really difficult for Unai Emery. Is he going to have the guts to keep Xhaka as captain? I’m not sure.
“But, more importantly, are the club going to do something about what happened? I think they have to, as a message to the fans and the players.
“Whatever happens on the pitch, the fans have the right to boo and show they are unhappy, the same way they have the right to applaud when you score and win games. It’s normal.
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“This has been an absolute basic for life as a football soccer professional; it’s the same in the street, even if someone comes up to you and says you’re sh*t, you have to keep your nerve.
“I know it’s difficult, especially with the pressure Xhaka has been under for the last few weeks. He’s been criticised by the fans and the media – by me, too, as a soccer professional, rather than as a person – but this has been what it means to be captain of a big club.
“Now, Xhaka has to be very solid in his mind. He needs to realise that what happened on Sunday was a mistake. I’m pretty sure he’s going to come up with an excuse, though.”