Paul Merson insists Granit Xhaka cares about Arsenal as the fallout over his outburst continues (Picture: Getty)

Paul Merson has admitted that Granit Xhaka’s reaction against Crystal Palace on Sunday was ‘shocking’ but he defended the Arsenal captain by stating that he cares for the club.

Xhaka was substituted in the second half of Arsenal’s 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace and reacted furiously to jeers from supporters by telling them to ‘f*** off’ as he made his way off the pitch and down the tunnel.

The 26-year-old has so far refused to apologise for his actions and has caused further controversy after changing his profile picture on Instagram from a picture of him wearing an Arsenal to shirt to one in a Switzerland one instead.

Although Merson condemned Xhaka’s actions, he insisted that it was a ‘heat of the moment’ outburst from the Switzerland international, who has come in for plenty of criticism since his move to Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016.

Xhaka was left furious by the reaction of Arsenal’s supporters to his substitution (Picture: Getty)

Merson told Sky Sports: ‘Xhaka’s behaviour was shocking but at the same time, he’s hurt. He’s the captain, he’s getting booed off the pitch, the fans are going mad and it’s the heat of the moment.

‘It’s not nice and no one wants to get booed off the pitch, I don’t care who you are. You could be the best player in the world and even Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi wouldn’t like to be booed off the pitch.

‘Looking back now, in the heat of the moment, you’re the captain and usually the last people to come off are the captains, then the crowd take it out on him. If he could have that one moment back, he probably wouldn’t do it, but it’s heat of the moment stuff.

‘I’m one of his biggest critics but he does care. I’ve seen some people come off pitches and they don’t care, they fly off and run faster off the pitch than they did during the game.’

A number of ex-Arsenal players have since spoken out about the incident with Emmanuel Petit, Nigel Winterburn and Merson’s Sky Sports colleague Charlie Nicholas, among those calling for Xhaka to be stood down as club captain.

Unai Emery confirmed on Tuesday that Xhaka would not be involved in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup clash against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday and some have questioned whether the midfielder has played his last game for the club.

Merson doesn’t expect that to be the case, though, adding: ‘It’s a hard one for the club because Unai Emery rates him, he’s the one player who plays every week so I would have thought Emery will want this to blow over really.

‘I don’t think it will be an Ozil situation where he says ‘that’s it, you’re not playing for the club again’.’





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