Wenger backs Xhaka denial over Heathrow racial abuse

Granit Xhaka protests after being given his marching orders against Burnley. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, he has been sent off more times - five - than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.
Granit Xhaka protests after being given his marching orders against Burnley. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, he has been sent off more times - five - than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has insisted that Granit Xhaka completely denies allegations that he racially abused a British Airways (BA) employee at Heathrow Airport on Monday night.

The Swiss international was interviewed by police, following reports that he allegedly called the BA employee a "f***ing white bitch" during a row, and Wenger revealed that he had also spoken to Xhaka about the incident.

"I have spoken to him about it and he denied completely the incident," the Frenchman said.

"I can only talk about him on what I've seen from the start, he has a fantastic attitude on a daily basis because sometimes you don't know how the players behave.

"But he has been absolutely marvellous with commitment, focus, dedication, and we never have had a bad noise about him."

The alleged incident comes after the £30 million (S$53 million) midfielder was sent off for the second time this season in Arsenal's 2-1 victory at home to Burnley on Sunday, after an earlier red card against Swansea City in October.

LEAVE IT TO THE PROFESSIONALS

The way he tackles is not really convincing... I would rather encourage him not to tackle, to stay on his feet.

ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, who wants midfielder Granit Xhaka to stop diving into tackles and risk getting carded.

Addressing the midfielder's dismissal, Wenger advised that he should not make any more tackles and learn to stay on his feet for fear that he could pick up more red cards.

"He's not naturally a great tackler and in his decision-making he is quite intelligent," he said.

"The way he tackles is not really convincing. He doesn't master well the technique of tackling.

"I would rather encourage him not to tackle, to stay on his feet."

Xhaka joined Arsenal from Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach last summer and has been dismissed nine times for club and country in the past three years.

The Gunners travel to a confident Southampton in the FA Cup fourth round today, determined to avenge their League Cup exit.

Southampton won 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium in November and on Wednesday clinched their place in that competition's final by beating Liverpool 1-0 and 2-0 on aggregate.

Theo Walcott returns to the Arsenal squad following injury, as do Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy. Said Wenger: "Southampton produced a fantastic performance at Liverpool.

"They are not short of confidence at the moment and will certainly have a big support, but it's an FA Cup game and we want to qualify.

"We'll put out a team with first-team experience.

"Maybe there will be one or two younger players, but no more."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SOUTHAMPTON V ARSENAL

SingtelTV Ch109, tomorrow, 1.20am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger backs Xhaka denial over Heathrow racial abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe