Granit Xhaka has divided opinion after questioning his teammates following Arsenal’s damning loss against Newcastle.
Arsenal crashed to a 2-0 defeat on the road to Newcastle United on Monday night, opening the door to Champions League qualification for Tottenham Hotspur as a result.
The loss means the Gunners weren’t able to use their game in hand and close the two-point gap between themselves in fifth and their North-London rivals in the all-important fourth spot.
Mikel Arteta’s inexperienced side appeared to succumb to the pressure of playing after their neighbours’ win against Burnley on Sunday, not helped by an injury to Takehiro Tomiyasu midgame who joined Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney on the list of absentees.
Despite the devastating nature of the result and the expected criticism laid at the manager’s door, midfielder Granit Xhaka’s outburst has stolen the headlines.
An experienced member of the dressing-room at 29-years-old, Xhaka was selected as the representative to talk for his teammates post-match and proved brutally honest in his assessment.
“If someone isn’t ready for this game, stay at home,” he responded to a question of whether his team’s youthful make-up played a part in their demise.
"“It doesn’t matter your age. If you’re nervous, stay on the bench or stay at home. You need people to come here and play. It’s one of the most important games for us. We’re feeling very disappointed for the people who came over here.“We need people to have the balls to come here and play because we knew this game is one of the most important for us. To perform like this is not acceptable. It’s very, very sad for us, very disappointing and I feel very sorry for the people who came here to support us.“This is not the way we wanted to go. This is all I can say, to say sorry to them. I don’t have any other words.”Via: Sky Sports"
Were Granit Xhaka’s comments out of line?
Since arriving six years ago from Gladbach, the Switzerland international has cut a divisive figure, seemingly outcast at times before being brought back into the fold.
Helped by the arrival of midfield partner Thomas Partey and a more settled environment collectively, this season Xhaka has played his best football in an Arsenal shirt.
Making 26 appearances from the start in the Premier League, with a total of zero errors leading to a shot or goal, the former captain has shown a discipline on the field that bereaved him when in possession of the armband. So, can he be criticised for losing it off it?
Sky Sports analyst Jamie Carragher debated Xhaka’s honest approach on Monday Night Football minutes after the interview.
"“He’s come out really strong and we like players to be honest. He’s having a go at his own teammates really and saying they weren’t ready.“But I know from my own experience it’s easy to come out and be really strong with your words at a time like that, and maybe he’ll get a little bit of credit for it. But do it on the pitch.”Via: Sky Sports"
In my opinion, Carragher’s assessment holds true, in particular with reference to the timing of Granit Xhaka’s reproach of his teammates.
The honesty was necessary at least after Arsenal’s loss to Tottenham last week – if not before – but is futile now the damage is done.
Mikel Arteta’s squad is the youngest on average in the English top-flight this season, further highlighting the need to act with compassion introspectively.
Although missing out on Champions League qualification by the narrowest of margins will feel like a failure, the development of this team has been anything but.
Unity is vital to ensure their upward trajectory doesn’t plateau because of the disappointment.
Arsenal welcome the visit of relegation fighting Everton on Sunday’s final day of the season while Tottenham take the trip to already relegated Norwich.