Unai Emery has challenged Granit Xhaka to change the perception Arsenal fans have of him after the midfielder was named club captain.
The Switzerland midfielder was confirmed as skipper on Friday, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang his immediate deputy, and Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil next in the hierarchy.
Xhaka, who turned 27 on Friday, being handed the armband has been a cause of consternation among Arsenal fans, many of whom jeered him when he was brought off during last week’s comeback 3-2 win over Aston Villa.
But head coach Emery, who put the decision to a vote among the squad before confirming his decision, backed Xhaka’s leadership skills and wants him to win the fans over.
“I gave them some values, some qualities that would decide the captain and I used the vote because I want to know the opinion on that, after that when I checked I decided,” Emery, whose leadership hierarchy was affected by the departures of Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal, said ahead of Monday’s trip to Manchester United.
“First he’s mature. He has experience. We are living every time under pressure, under criticism, as a coach, as a player, as a club. But really the most important thing is to stand up each moment, go ahead with his qualities, with his behaviour, with his commitment.
“In the dressing room the players voted him as the first leadership. I know, I spoke with him, we want to change that opinion outside. That respect he has inside is very, very important. Also show [the] outside, keep moving ahead, playing, improving, behaviour, commitment. Each match is for him, for me, for us, a very good opportunity to show our capacity.
“But really I trust and believe in him. He is a good man. A good professional. A good player.
“Sometimes he makes mistakes. But the most important thing is to analyse, to learn and correct those mistakes.
“Our challenge and his challenge is to change that opinion, above all with a personality and improving each match, improving and giving us his help every time.
“The first chance is [Monday] in Manchester.”
It’s Manchester United up next in the @PremierLeague…
So here’s a timely reminder of our birthday boy finding the net in our home win last season pic.twitter.com/DpqW4rZoqs
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 27, 2019
But the Spaniard said the timing of the announcement is purely because he did not want to take a vote while the squad was being assembled.
“One month ago they [the captains] were Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, they were the captains,” he added.
“I decided in that to keep time for the side and also to use every player for that vote.
“The last player [who] left from here is [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan. We waited for the moment we closed the team, closed the squad, and decided.
“In pre-season we were speaking, we had three captains in that group – Xhaka, Monreal, Ozil, I wanted it to be five.”
Emery sounded a warning to Xhaka and the rest of his leadership team that being captain does not guarantee a starting berth.
“The performance is giving me the first eleven, the next players to play, not the armbands, not the captains,” he said.