LONDON • Unai Emery refused to rule out stripping Granit Xhaka of the Arsenal captaincy after admitting the player was wrong to react angrily to Gunners fans during Sunday's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
Arsenal blew a two-goal lead at the Emirates Stadium before Xhaka's tantrum laid bare the simmering tensions at a club in danger of spiralling into crisis.
In the 61st minute, shortly after Palace equalised through Jordan Ayew, the Swiss midfielder was summoned to be replaced by Bukayo Saka. He responded by flinging the captain's armband at teammate Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, before trudging slowly to the touchline while petulantly cupping his ears to the fans who had cheered his substitution.
He continued his meltdown by taking off his shirt, mouthing "f*** off" at fans before storming past Emery straight down the tunnel.
Emery conceded Xhaka was out of line. "He was wrong. I want to be calm but, really, he was wrong in this action," the Spaniard said. "We are working with the players to play under pressure. In a difficult moment you can be hot. You have to be clever.
"We play for the supporters. We need to have a lot of respect for them when they are applauding us and when they are criticising us."
Xhaka, appointed captain last month after a player vote, had been criticised by the fan base for failing to convince since his 2016 move from German Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach.
This was not the first time the home crowd had taken badly to the 27-year-old, who was also jeered off - albeit not to this extent - in the win over Aston Villa five weeks ago, and now faces calls to be stripped of the captaincy.
But Emery said: "It is not the moment to talk about that.
"I think now is the time to stay calm and speak to him. We need to speak inside (the club)."
Fifth-placed Arsenal were booed off at full-time, while supporters chanted Mesut Ozil's name in a pointed reference to Emery's refusal to pick the German star.
Yet the manager insisted his team retain the support of the crowd.
"They are the reason for their work. I think the connection with the team was amazing in the last 20 minutes. There were some special circumstances but, in general, they support us," he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN