Arsenal manager, Unai Emery, has called for his players to be mentally stronger after captain Granit Xhaka claimed they were “too scared” during the 2-2 draw with Watford.

Granit Xhaka has revealed how close he came to leaving Arsenal in January, while also confessing he would have reservations over captaining Arsenal again in the future.

Unai Emery named Xhaka as Arsenal’s new permanent captain following the departure of Laurent Koscielny in the summer transfer window having asked the squad to vote on their preferred candidate.

The Switzerland international only lasted a couple of months in the role, however, after an incident with the club’s supporters during a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium on October 27.

Xhaka reacted angrily to being booed by fans as he left the pitch as a substitute, telling them to “f**k off” before storming down the tunnel.

The 27-year-old was stripped of the captaincy a few days later, and Emery proceeded to leave him out of the squad until he was relieved of his managerial duties towards the end of December.

Emery’s successor Mikel Arteta has since restored Xhaka to Arsenal’s starting line-up, but the midfielder has distanced himself from another spell with the armband in the future.

“I know with or without the armband what I can give the team,” he told the Evening Standard.

“But in this moment [against Palace] I don’t want to take the armband back, but Sokratis [Papastathopoulos] and David [Luiz] told me I have to take it.


“If one day the club asks me about the armband, I have to think twice.”

When asked if he considered leaving the Emirates during the last transfer window, Xhaka responded: “Of course, I don’t lie. There was a moment, because it was not easy for me and my family. I hope people understand this.

“But I think I showed my character. I am not a guy who runs away. I always say to the club, ‘When I [am] here, I am ready to give everything’. It was like this always. I train very hard and that things turned around is the key. This [has given me] the most happiness.”

Xhaka, who joined Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, went on to discuss the difference the Premier League and the Bundesliga in terms of how players are able to interact with supporters.

“On one side I understand the fans, because they always want the players to perform, but on the other side they have to understand us as well. It is not always easy,” he added.

“I think this is the biggest difference [between] Germany and England, because [here] we don’t have the [close] connection with the fans. In Germany for example, you have open training sessions, [where] the fans come and [talk to you], ask you why.

“Here, everything is closed. So, for me, it would be good this time to explain to the people what is not going good or bad. But it doesn’t matter now. Now we have to enjoy, that’s the most ­important [thing].”


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