LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal boss Unai Emery said on Thursday (Nov 21) that Granit Xhaka’s “mindset is better” after he missed four matches following his public run-in with the club’s fans.
The Switzerland international was stripped of the club captaincy after swearing and throwing the captain’s armband to the ground in reaction to Gunners fans booing him as he was substituted against Crystal Palace late last month.
Xhaka, 27, blamed death threats to his family for his furious response, saying he had reached “boiling point”, but Emery said he was training well after playing in both of his country’s Euro 2020 qualifiers in the past week.
“He is coming back better in his mind, his mindset is better to help us and to be closer to playing when we need him,” said Emery ahead of his side’s home match with Southampton on Saturday.
“I spoke to him this morning and we had a very good conversation. He trained very well before the international break and he trained very well this morning.”
Emery gave no guarantee that Xhaka would feature against the Saints.
“We are going to decide tomorrow but I want to do that comeback, give him confidence and make him comfortable,” he said.
“And when we can connect with our supporters with a good moment and a good performance and being strong with them.”
Arsenal, without a win in four Premier League matches, are sixth in the table, eight points behind the top four, but Emery was positive they could narrow the gap.
“Last year we had some experience in reducing the gap against important teams and now that’s our objective,” said the Spaniard.
“We know it won’t take a short time but that’s our goal and our challenge now is to reduce the distance, little by little, and starting on Saturday and that match is very important.”