Time for Arsenal captain Xhaka to repay Emery’s faith

Updated 29 September 2019

Time for Arsenal captain Xhaka to repay Emery’s faith

  • Xhaka’s discipline and defensive awareness have repeatedly been questioned since joining the club from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016

MANCHESTER: Granit Xhaka will lead Arsenal into Monday’s Premier League clash at Manchester United as the club’s new captain, but the Swiss midfielder has to win over plenty of doubters that he is fit to wear the Gunners’ armband.

Xhaka’s discipline and defensive awareness have repeatedly been questioned since joining the club from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, but both Arsene Wenger and current Arsenal boss Unai Emery have consistently put their faith in the 27-year-old.

That trust is not replicated by the club’s fans. On one of the few occasions he was replaced by Emery with the Gunners trailing 2-1 to Aston Villa last weekend, Xhaka was booed as he trudged off the field.

Despite being down to 10 men, Arsenal turned the game around with the energetic duo of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira buzzing around the midfield.

That is a combination many supporters would like to see on a more regular basis, but Xhaka’s elevated status in the dressing room means he will remain a fixture for some time to come.

Emery sought votes from his squad before naming a five-man leadership group on Friday, of which Xhaka came top, but the Spanish manager is aware of the doubters questioning his decision.

“In the dressing room the players voted him as the first (in the) leadership (group),” said Emery on Friday.

“I spoke with him, we want to change that opinion outside. That respect he has inside is very, very important.

“Each match is for him, for me, for us, is a very good opportunity to show our capacity.

“Really I trust and believe in him. He is a good man. A good professional. A good player.”

Emery’s trust in Xhaka could easily backfire.

Arsenal have a break clause in the contract they handed the former Sevilla manager in 2018 that could see him released at the end of the season if he fails to deliver Champions League football to the Emirates for the first time in four years.

“It is a brave decision from the manager,” said former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, who described Xhaka’s performance against Tottenham earlier in the season as being “like a fire engine that turns up and discovers the house has already burned down.”

A stereotypical late lunge conceded a penalty that day in the north London derby as Arsenal had to battle back from 2-0 down to salvage a point.

Xhaka also described his side as “scared” when they threw away a 2-0 lead at Watford to draw 2-2 earlier this month.

Monday’s visit to an injury-ravaged United offers Arsenal a great chance for their first league victory at Old Trafford since 2006.

Do so and they will also open up a six-point lead over one of their rivals to break into the top tour.

For Emery to show to his superiors that he is making progress as Wenger’s long-awaited successor, he needs Xhaka to start to inspire his side to rise to the occasion.


Saudi esports world cup winner a ‘class’ role model for young players: Gaming chief

Updated 15 November 2019

Saudi esports world cup winner a ‘class’ role model for young players: Gaming chief

  • Prince Faisal said the fast pace of technological advances was changing not only how people lived but their view of sport.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup winner Mosaad Al-Dossary was the kind of role model young players should be looking to emulate, according to the Kingdom’s esports gaming chief.

President of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronics and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS), Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, told Arab News he was “proud” of Al-Dossary for his esports achievements and for showing “his class as a human being.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the Misk Global Forum, in Riyadh, the prince said the fast pace of technological advances was changing not only how people lived but their view of sport.

Equating esports to traditional sports, he stressed it was important that young people moderated their time playing video competitions. 

“Moderation in everything,” he quoted his father as telling him.

“Everything has its positives, within reason. I don’t expect our professional (esports) players to be playing for 18 hours a day. What we advocate is having good mental health, social health as well as good physical health.”

Prince Faisal said it was important that youth chose their heroes carefully, and Al-Dossary was an example of the perfect role model. 

“I’m proud of him for all of his many accomplishments in gaming, but I’m prouder of who he is as a person.”

He noted that during Al-Dossary’s winning participation in the Manchester FUT Champions Cup, in the UK, one of the tournament’s young competitors had fallen ill and was taken to hospital. Al-Dossary had ducked out of victory celebrations to go and visit his sick opponent, taking with him the green scarf awarded to world cup qualifiers which he left on the young man’s bedside table as a gift.

“I’m prouder of him for doing that, brightening up his opponent’s day, than I am of him winning the world cup,” the prince said. 

“He showed his class as a human being, not as an esports player. And that’s what we expect of all of our athletes and all of our young kids across all industries and sports.

“That’s the caliber of person that we have in Saudi, in our communities and that’s what I want to showcase to the world.”

Prince Faisal admitted that online harassment could be a problem, but said it was a global issue that could only be solved through education.

“There are errors, and esports and gaming is a new era, and it’s a new era of accessibility. Along with that comes a learning curve and an education curve,”he added.