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.


Anthony Joshua wins Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia on points against Andy Ruiz Jr.

Updated 08 December 2019

Anthony Joshua wins Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia on points against Andy Ruiz Jr.

  • British boxer won by a unanimous decision
  • New champion thanked Saudi Arabia for hosting the fight

RIYADH: Anthony Joshua reclaimed his world heavyweight title belts after a points decision over Andy Ruiz Jr. in the Clash on the Dunes on Sunday morning in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

The British boxer won by a unanimous decision from the judges after outboxing Ruiz Jr., especially in the later rounds.

In the first heavyweight title fight to be held in the Middle East, Joshua dominated a self-proclaimed "overweight" Ruiz Jr. over 12 solid, but largely uninspiring, rounds to win back the WBA, WBO and IBF belts, and avengeget revenge for his shock upset by his Mexican-American opponent six months ago in New York.

“Sometimes simplicity is genius. I was outclassing the champion,” Joshua said.

“I am used to knocking people out, but last time I got hurt so I gave the man his credit. I said I would correct myself again.

“I just wanted to put on a great boxing masterclass and also show the sweet science of this lovely sport. It’s about hitting and not getting hit.

British boxer Anthony Joshua, right, regained his world heavyweight title last night in front of 30,000 fight fans in a thrilling contest at the new Diriyah arena outside Riyadh, against the Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr.  (Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing , Dave Thompson/Matchroom and Ian Walton/Matchroom)

"Sometimes with certain fighters you have to box smarter. I understand what Andy brought to the table so I had to decapitate him in a different way,” he said.

Ruiz Jr. admitted he hadn't trained well enough for the rematch and got “boxed around.”

“The partying got the best of me," he said.  “I didn’t prepare how I should have. I gained too much weight. I don’t want to give excuses, he won ... If we do a third fight, you best believe I’m going to get in shape. I’ll be in the best shape of my life.”

Joshua immediately paid tribute to his opponent after the fight, thanking the Mexican fighter and his family, Saudi Arabia for hosting and the traveling fans who made the journey to the Kingdom.