Emiliano Martínez has said that the Arsenal squad is fully behind Granit Xhaka after the captain clashed with club’s fans last weekend.
The 27-year-old, who was in goal for Arsenal for their remarkable Carabao Cup fourth-round tie against Liverpool on Wednesday, which they lost 5-4 on penalties after a 5-5 draw, added that Xhaka was a “lovely” person who cared deeply about the club.
The Switzerland international gestured and swore at the crowd as he was substituted in the 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace on Sunday, with Unai Emery later admitting that the club had suggested the midfielder should apologise to the fans. No apology has been forthcoming and the player has changed his Instagram profile picture to one of him in a Switzerland kit rather than an Arsenal one.
Despite the fallout, Martínez is adamant that the players are still backing the captain. Asked whether they had spoken to the Xhaka, he said: “We always do, all of us. He’s a lovely guy, he’s a bit devastated because he has got a good family, a good heart and he loves the club. When someone goes through that, we have to support him and we are together.”
Martínez admitted the scenes at the Emirates last weekend surprised the players. “It was a shock because we know how much he cares about the club [and] everyone has got emotions. At that time he wasn’t thinking much about that, because we were 2-2 and the fans wanted to win the game.
“It was a bit nervous in the stadium but I think if he [gets substituted] again he will come off quick. We support him all the way. The manager decides if he’s the captain or not. But for us as a group, as a leader, we support him all the way.”
Arsenal are experiencing a difficult time, with the draw against Palace coming after a 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United. The defeat at Anfield will not have helped the players’ confidence, coming as it did after them being 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4 up. They face Wolves at home in the league on Saturday and Martínez is confident the fans will support the team.
“They showed us that they love us and they support us,” he said of events at Liverpool. “I was devastated not going through for the fans that came to watch the game. We are sorry to let them down but on Saturday we are going to put things right.”