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Xhaka let his fans down but...: Why boo-boys have Arsenal rep plummeting

COMMENT: Too late? Not enough? Granit Xhaka's two-part apology for his outburst last week failed on both counts.

We say two-part, because in case you missed it, Xhaka did fulfil his captain's duties in Saturday's matchday programme for the draw with Wolves. And the Swiss did refer (literally) to his blow-up during the previous week's point against Crystal Palace. And when saying refer, that's exactly what he did. Xhaka referred those reading his captain's notes to the statement he released 48 hours previous explaining his actions and detailing the abuse he and his family had received online.

But as much as he's gone through this past week, this simply wasn't good enough. Not for a captain. A leader. Not only of a playing squad, but as the figurehead of an institution - as Arsenal is.

For this column's regulars, you'll know we supported Unai Emery, the Arsenal manager, in his decision to name Xhaka as captain. And even today, for everything that has occurred since Palace, he remains the best choice. The support he has received from his teammates. The tears of Lucas Torreira. And the backing that's arrived from Switzerland. It all confirms what was previously argued: Xhaka is a popular pro. Liked and admired by his peers.

But he's let himself down with his actions for that matchday column. The cupping of the ear last Sunday. The eff-off. It could be explained away as heat-of-the-moment stuff. Booing your own. Barracking your captain. There'd be a significant percentage of pros and ex-pros willing to stand up for Xhaka. Indeed, we already have Mark Noble, the West Ham captain, and Tottenham defender Ben Davies, doing as much in the last 24 hours.

But not expanding on that public statement. Giving it more detail. Sitting down and thinking about how best to explain your actions - and with what has occurred in the aftermath. To be unwilling to do that is bordering on the insulting. Those whom jeered and barracked Xhaka, not just against Palace but also in the games in the lead up, they don't deserve a response. And that's including those paid to talk about the game. But what about his supporters? The ones whom have argued his case? Even when it goes against popular opinion. Don't they deserve a greater show of commitment from Xhaka than simply a 'refer here' line?

With such a dismissive approach, Xhaka let both himself down and those whom have stood by him.

And no matter the noise, there's a lot out there. Just as there are who are behind Shkodran Mustafi, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Yes, even the man next in line for the armband has copped it this week. Aubameyang being abused by angry fans as his outrageous silver lamborghini was stuck - inevitably - in London traffic.

For the moment. For this season. The vocal minority appear to be winning at Arsenal. And they're getting a reputation. Not just online inside the sewer that is social media, but also in the real world. The football world. The perception of how Arsenal's players relate to the support is plummeting. The season isn't three months old and we've had Mesut Ozil go public about the abuse and blame he's copped from his own. Mustafi, in a detailed interview with his hometown paper, did the same - even highlighting, "At one point people blamed me for a defeat I did not even play in!". And now we have Xhaka...

This abuse. These incidents. They don't simply happen in a bubble. Something the club can keep in-house and manage. It makes an impression. On agents. On transfer targets. On parents and families of players. Given a choice, is a player joining an Arsenal becoming engulfed in spite and hostility? Or is he choosing option B?

And what of those now there? The ones who have rallied around Xhaka? Just as they did for Mustafi. As they have done for Ozil. How is the current group feeling today about those they play for?

A great goal. A great, inspiring win. The players want to celebrate that. Amongst themselves. And with the support. But you have to wonder, will such celebrations now have the tinge of a hollow ring? Will it still be about unity - winning together - when results turn around? Or will the players be simply thinking they've staved off the mob for now... knowing full well anyone of them could be the next to get the Xhaka or Mustafi treatment.

You hope it doesn't come to that. And it shouldn't. But the boo-boys in the stands. The trolls online. And the click-baiting pundits in the studio. They're the loudest at the moment. And they're winning.

They don't deserve to be, but they are. You want the Gooner who goes to the Prem 2 game just to show his face and offer support to be recognised. The one who takes time off work to take his kids to an open training session. Who will stand outside the stadium in the wet and cold just to catch the eye of a player and say 'well done' - even after a loss. You want those fans to be heard. You want those in the locker room to recognise they're playing for them.

They're the sort of supporter who will have argued Xhaka's corner these past few days - even if it became heated.

And they're the sort who deserved better from the captain on Saturday.

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TransfersOpinion
Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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