Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has been stripped of his captaincy and left out of the Gunners’ Europa League game against Portugal’s Vitoria, manager Unai Emery has confirmed. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will skipper the club in his place.
“I had a meeting with him and told him he is no longer in the captain’s group,” the Mirror website quoted the Spaniard as telling reporters on Tuesday.
Aubameyang takes over the permanent role, although he was also not in the 18-man travelling squad for the match in Guimaraes and Hector Bellerin is likely to stand in instead.
“He [Xhaka] accepted my decision. We need to carry on and focus on tomorrow’s match. I needed to take a decision and now it’s closed,” said Emery.
The decision comes amid a swarm of controversy stemming from Xhaka’s angry reaction to being booed by fans after being substituted in the Gunners’ draw with Crystal Palace last month.
Xhaka taunted home fans and removed his shirt when storming off the pitch after he was substituted and appeared to swear at his team’s own supporters, as well as waving his arms taunting supporters to jeer louder and cupping his ear.
Xhaka was absent from Arsenal’s shootout loss to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, with Bellerin wearing the captain’s armband as the Gunners exited the competition in the round of 16. And he was not in the squad for the team’s 1-1 Premier League draw against Wolves on Saturday.
Immediately following the incident against Palace, Emery said Xhaka was devastated about the row and hailed his commitment to the club in training and in games.
The Switzerland international said his actions were caused in part by what he perceived to be harsh treatment from the club’s fans on social media and during matches and that it boiled over that day at the Emirates.
In a post on his Instagram account, Xhaka wrote: “The scenes that took place around my substitution have moved me deeply. I love this club and will always give 100% on and off the pitch.
“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.
“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.”
Information from Reuters was used in this report.