Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal skipper Granit Xhaka won’t play against Wolves

The Gunners have yet to make a decision over whether the 27-year-old will retain the armband.

Unai Emery, centre, will not play Granit Xhaka on Saturday (Isabel Infantes/PA)
Unai Emery, centre, will not play Granit Xhaka on Saturday (Isabel Infantes/PA)

By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA

Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka will not play against Wolves on Saturday as head coach Unai Emery calls for “100 per cent” focus on the match.

Emery has taken the decision to leave Xhaka out of the firing line after he told supporters to “f*** off” as he was jeered leaving the pitch in the draw with Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Xhaka also waved his arms, cupped his ears, removed his shirt and batted away Emery’s hand as he left the pitch – leaving his position as skipper in doubt.

The Gunners have yet to make a decision over whether the 27-year-old will retain the armband but the PA news agency understands Arsenal will offer support – such as counselling – to help Xhaka through a difficult process.

The Switzerland international broke his own silence on Thursday night, explaining long-term abuse over social media led to his reaction last weekend.

“My feeling of not being understood by fans, and repeated abusive comments at matches and in social media over the last weeks and months have hurt me deeply,” he wrote on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

Message to the fans;

A post shared by Granit Xhaka (@granitxhaka) on

“People have said things like, ‘We will break your legs’, ‘Kill your wife’ and ‘Wish that your daughter gets cancer’.

“That has stirred me up and I reached boiling point when I felt the rejection in the stadium on Sunday.”

Emery admitted in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s 2- 2 draw that Xhaka’s actions were “wrong” but has spoken since about the need to respect his human side.

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Granit Xhaka speaking to referee Martin Atkinson before his substitution (Nigel French/PA)

That means he will be taken out of the firing line as Wolves visit the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, looking for a result to further increase the pressure on under-fire Emery.

“The focus is tomorrow’s match,” the Spaniard said when asked if Xhaka would play.

“It’s not in my mind that he will play tomorrow. I think that tomorrow, he is not going to play.

“Because I think that now, we need to be focused on the match at 100 per cent. Now we are going to train but at the moment, he’s not in my mind.”

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Unai Emery has a selection decision to make in his midfield (Steven Paston/PA)

Asked if the former Borussia Monchengladbach man would retain the captaincy, Emery added: “We were waiting for his statement on Monday ahead of the last press conference here on Tuesday.

“The next step is tomorrow’s match. He is training normally with the team, he didn’t play at Liverpool and he is continuing and above all has remained focused on tomorrow.”

Emery will be keen to get back to winning ways in the Premier League having won just two of their last eight.

A host of first-team regulars are expected to return after Emery made 11 changes for the incredible 5-5 Carabao Cup fourth-round draw at Liverpool, which Arsenal then lost on penalties.

While Xhaka will not be included in the matchday squad, Mesut Ozil will be involved in a Premier League fixture for the first time since he was an unused substitute in the 3-2 win over Aston Villa on September 22.

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An Arsenal fan shows his support for Mesut Ozil (Nigel French/PA)

The 31-year-old has not played in the league since a draw at Watford a week earlier but impressed when recalled for Wednesday’s Carabao Cup game at Anfield and Emery revealed he could play some part against Wolves.

“Mesut is in the squad and I think he has the possibility to play,” he said.

“When you talk about players who are ready to play under high pressure, one is Mesut Ozil.

“I think he has confidence and I think he has respect. When he is in that positive way, when he is available consistently, he has the respect from us and from every supporter.”

PA

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