Siao Mates Oct 29

I don’t dig it, Xhaka! Arsenal captain’s temper tantrum captures team’s problems in a nutshell


What transpired at the Emirates Stadium this past weekend was one of the most shocking things I’ve seen on a football pitch for a long time.


And no, I’m not even talking about the ridiculous decision by VAR officials to chalk off Sokratis’s perfectly good goal for Arsenal in the 83rd minute that would have seen us take a 3-2 lead over Crystal Palace – a lead which I have no doubt we would have gone on to relinquish five minutes later.


I’m talking, of course, about the incredible temper tantrum Arsenal’s captain Granit Xhaka threw when he was withdrawn in the 61st minute for youngster Bukayo Saka.


For the benefit of those who don’t know what I’m talking about because you have better things to do than watch Arsenal play a style of football that is about as attractive as me in a lime green mankini, here’s what happened.

Borat Mankini GIF - Borat Mankini Thong GIFs
No, you won't.


When Xhaka’s number went up on the fourth official’s board to signal his substitution, a number of Arsenal fans began cheering ironically to indicate their approval of the change.


It sparked a reaction in the Swiss international, who began taunting the home fans by waving his arms and cupping his ear. 


This – along with the fact that Xhaka slowly trudged off the field despite the score being tied at 2-2 at that time, with Arsenal desperately searching for a winner – led to more home fans booing their own captain.


Xhaka then compounded the fiasco by throwing both the captain’s armband and jersey on the ground, before storming down the tunnel.




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If that’s how all captains behave, then my nine-year-old nephew – who apparently still thinks that screaming and crying is an appropriate reaction to things not going his way – is destined for leadership.

Mad Tantrum GIF by South Park


Granted, I fully understand that on a human level, it must have been awful for Xhaka to feel unappreciated and unloved by Arsenal fans, who are one of the hardest fan base to please.


I should know, I'm one of them. And as fans, we do have to draw a line between making our opinions heard and outright abuse. Booing and jeering is fine - it's part of sports. Tagging the player on social media and wishing ill upon them and their family is not.


What Xhaka experienced on Monday (SGT) was unpleasant, yes, but he's not the first footballer to be booed by his own fans, and he certainly won’t be the last.


In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Manchester United fans in Singapore booed their captain Ashley Young when he came onto the pitch at the National Stadium.


Did Young throw his toys out of the pram then? Did he sulk and refuse to play? Did he run to the stands to kung-fu kick a United fan, a la Eric Cantona?


No. Young kept his head down, worked hard, and has since made himself an integral part of a United team that is absolutely tearing it up in the mid-tier of the English Premier League this season. Now, that’s what I call a success story.


In contrast, what Xhaka did in response to the jeers of the crowd was about as mature as Donald Trump on Twitter.


Sadly, Xhaka is emblematic of the very ills on the pitch that have been plaguing Arsenal in recent times.


Mediocre at best, prone to caution, yet not quite defensively secure to warrant playing Mourinho-esque pragmatic football. And now, crumbling at the first sign of pressure, like my diet plans whenever I see a plate of begedils.


As a captain, Xhaka is supposed to represent the cream of the crop. A captain is supposed to uphold the values, the traditions, and the dignity of the club.


But right now, at Arsenal, the Xhaka cream has since curdled into a yoghurt, which has further curdled into a sickly yellow goo that is causing a malaise within the squad. 


As for the club’s values, traditions and dignity? Well, Xhaka had might as well have drawn a penis on the head of the Tony Adams statue outside the Emirates Stadium – such was the level of disrespect he showed to the club when he threw his jersey and armband on the ground.

Animated GIF
Nuff said.


To be fair to Xhaka, remaining calm and collected under high-pressure situations has never been his strong suit. He’s like Tottenham Hotspur’s Serge Aurier – in that they’re both rash, careless, and the team’s weak link – but only with a jawline that is so defined it could cut potatoes.


That is why the original sin lies with head coach Unai Emery for even choosing Xhaka as the team’s captain.


He could have chosen as captain our top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – the popular choice for Arsenal fans – or Hector Bellerin, whose intelligence, likeability and ‘Arsenal-ness’ makes him perfect for the role.


Instead, Emery decided to go for the safe choice in Xhaka, because he is reportedly popular in the dressing room, and is also the captain of the Swiss national team.


But the fact that Emery waited till the end of September to officially confirm the captaincy also indicates that the Spaniard himself was unsure about Xhaka’s suitability for the role. 


Although frankly, Emery is probably also unclear and unsure about a lot of things going on at Arsenal at the moment. 


Which is all a roundabout way of saying that things at Arsenal are currently going as smoothly as the sand at Singapore’s East Coast Park. Fan sentiment is at an all-time low, the players look bereft of ideas and confidence, and the club captain has made us all a laughing stock with his antics.


If the powers that be at Arsenal – meaning technical director Edu and Head of Football Raul Sanllehi – don’t do anything to stop the rot, then things will get a lot worse before it gets better.


But no matter how bad things get, you won’t see me throw my Arsenal jersey on the ground. 


I just won’t wear it, that’s all.




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