Unai Emery has confirmed Granit Xhaka is Arsenal’s new captain – and challenged the under-fire midfielder to change the opinion of his critics.
Swiss midfielder Xhaka was told the news that he would be Laurent Koscielny’s successor ahead of Monday’s trip to Manchester United, after winning a blind vote head coach Emery held amongst his players. Xhaka will head up Arsenal’s new group of five captains after the one Emery named last season was broken up by the departures of Koscielny, Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey.
The 27-year-old will be backed up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil. Xhaka has failed to win over Arsenal’s fans and was jeered during their 3-2 win over Aston Villa last week but Emery said: ‘He is mature and he has experience and we are living every time under pressure, under criticism as a coach, as players, a club.
‘But really the most important thing is to stand up each moment, go ahead with his quality and his behaviour and his commitment and in his dressing room the players voted him as the first, for his leadership. ‘After I spoke with him.
We want to change that opinion outside because that respect he has inside is very, very important but we also want him to show that to outside by keep moving ahead, playing, improving, your behaviour, commitment and each match is for him, for us, for everybody, a very good opportunity to show our capacity.
‘But I trust and believe in him. He is a good man, good professional, good player. Sometimes he made a mistake but the most important thing is to analyse, learn and correct those mistakes and the future will speak. ‘His challenge is to change that opinion with that personality and improve each match and give us his help each time and the first match is on Monday in Manchester.’ Speaking about his captaincy selection process, Emery explained: ‘We spoke about that last week.
‘I gave the players some values, some qualities and after the vote, I checked this week and the five captains are Xhaka the first, then Aubameyang, third is Hector Bellerin, four is Lacazette and five is Mesut. ‘I decided in that moment [during the summer] to wait to decide the captaincy and also to use every player for that vote.
‘The last player left from here, (Henrikh) Mkhitrayan, and I didn’t want one player who wasn’t going to be here to do one vote so I waited until we closed the squad to decide.’ But Emery insisted Xhaka’s new status will not guarantee his place in the team. He said: ‘The performance is giving me the next first 11, the next players to play, not the armband.’