Granit Xhaka has opened up on his angry reaction to verbal abuse he suffered from Arsenal fans when substituted during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, which led to him being stripped of the club’s captaincy.
The 27-year-old has been absent for the last four matches, with manager Unai Emery suggesting Xhaka may never play for the club again after the midfielder was left “devastated, sad and very down” by last month’s Emirates incident, which led to him telling supporters to “f*** off” after he was jeered off.
However, in a new interview, Switzerland international Xhaka who revealed how he was consoled by Arsenal team-mates after the match, insisted that he is “proud” to play for the club and is “100 per cent” behind the team.
“When my shirt number lit up on the fourth official’s panel and our own fans broke into gleeful jubilation, that hit me very hard and really upset me,” Xhaka told Swiss publication Blick. “It was very hurtful and frustrating.
“I can’t understand a reaction like that even now, especially the vehemence of it and the extreme hostility directed against me. I don’t mean to say that I can’t take criticism. If the team and I don’t play well, we must listen and work on it.
“But insulting and swearing at your own captain will cause upset and a bad atmosphere for the team you are actually supposed to be supporting. That makes no sense to me and weakens the team’s spirit.
“Some of my team-mates came to see me and that was great. They encouraged me to not let it get me down. Above all they pointed out how many Arsenal fans around the world didn’t like the way the fans reacted in the stadium and condemned it.
“We’re talking about football and a captaincy. I know that means the world to a lot of people here in London and I’ve been 100 per cent behind the club and my role as a player since I came here. I’m proud to be playing for this big club.
He added: “I’ll continue to stay positive, give my all to an even greater extent and prove that I’m an important part of this great team.”
In the immediate aftermath of the incident against Palace, Arsenal offered counselling to Xhaka but reports surfaced last week that the club may try and sell him in the Janaury transfer window.
Boss Emery did little to quell the speculation when it was put to him whether the club had spoken about a possible move.
“Yes, I asked that question,” Emery said. “The club knows the player’s decision at the moment and my decision or my idea about that situation and the circumstances.
“We are now a little weaker without him in that position because we have one less player in that position.
“After the international break, I am going to speak again with him. The club is speaking also with him and we are going to decide each moment how he is and how I am thinking for how we are to use him.