Granit Xhaka has ‘betrayed’ Arsenal and should be stripped of the captaincy immediately for appearing to swear at fans and storming down the tunnel on Sunday, according to Gunners legend Emmanuel Petit.
The Switzerland international reacted angrily after some Arsenal fans cheered his substitution during Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.
Xhaka responded by cupping his ear to the crowd and appeared to tell supporters to ‘f*** off’ before leaving the field.
Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka reacted furiously after supporters jeered him on Sunday
Xhaka appeared to tell supporters to ‘f*** off’ before angrily storming down the tunnel
The 27-year-old was only officially confirmed as Arsenal’s club captain just over a month ago, but could now be punished by losing the armband.
And Petit, writing for Paddy Power, would agree if that was the outcome.
He said: ‘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 is 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 is totally different. You can’t do that – it’s like betrayal in England.’
France midfielder Petit, who played for Arsenal between 1997 and 2000, said Xhaka can’t hold a candle to some of the club’s previous captains.
Arsenal legend Emmanuel Petit believes that Xhaka should be stripped of the captaincy now
Arsenal manager Unai Emery has a big decision to make over the future of Xhaka as skipper
‘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,’ he said.
‘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 any more.’
Petit, who won the Premier League and the FA Cup when at Arsenal, believes the Xhaka situation is now a real test of authority for under-pressure manager Unai Emery.
‘It’s very difficult for the Arsenal fans to forgive Xhaka. They don’t want him to play for their club any more,’ he added.
Petit described his former Arsenal team-mate Patrick Vieira as a ‘real leader’
‘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 are going to do something about what happened? I think they have to, as a message to the fans and the players.’
Arsenal return to action on Wednesday night when they play Liverpool in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup and it remains to be seen whether Emery picks Xhaka.
‘I know it’s difficult, especially with the pressure Xhaka has been under for the last few weeks,’ said Petit.
‘He’s been criticised by the fans and the media – by me, too, as a player, rather than as a person – but this is what it means to be captain of a big club.
The Arsenal skipper cupped his hand to his ear as he was hauled off in the second half
‘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.
‘For now, I’ll be very surprised if he’s on the team-sheet for the Liverpool game.’
But Petit also believes that Emery must take some share of the blame for this Xhaka situation.
‘Emery didn’t help him at all, in honestly. He knows Xhaka has been getting criticised for weeks, so what message does it send substituting this player, his captain, after an hour?
‘If you remember, the same thing happened against Sheffield United, again when they needed to chase the win.
‘Clearly, doing that two league games in a row tells the world that you don’t think your captain is at the right level to play.
‘Either he’s lying to us, or he’s lying in the dressing room to his team and Xhaka. But his actions tell me that Emery doesn’t have the confidence in Xhaka.’
Emmanuel Petit was speaking exclusively to Paddy Power News. To read more, visit news.paddypower.com