Unai Emery says he has nothing more to add to the Granit Xhaka situation after taking the decision to strip the midfielder of the Arsenal captaincy.
The Spaniard confirmed this evening that he had informed the Swiss of his decision in a meeting at London Colney and that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be taking over the armband.
Xhaka, who released a statement via his own social media channels last week – subsequently reprinted in Saturday’s matchday programme – that explained his reaction to being jeered from the pitch in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, has not been included in the squad to face Vitoria; the third game he’s missed in a row.
Given the circumstances, there are now serious doubts as to whether Xhaka has a future at the club, something Emery was quizzed on in his pre-game press conference in Guimarães.
“I think we are speaking a lot about that and it’s clear, there’s not more words about that,” said Emery.
“The future is Arsenal’s club future, with the players that are here now and the coaches that are here.
“We have a match tomorrow, a very important match for us in the Europa League and then on Saturday in that way we need to take some decisions about some circumstances that are happening.
“I say to you what it is about Xhaka and now is for the match tomorrow and only that is my focus.
“Our focus is for tomorrow and then I think we need time because he is one of our players and we want to protect and respect him and also continue in our way. At the moment he’s not in the group and my decision is as I said to you.”
Sounding somewhat exasperated, he went on: “The decision I have taken, and also I told him and I told the other captains and now we are continuing.
“Then the time is giving us the next matches, the next weeks and the next months, how we can continue with every player and with him also.
“But now our focus is on tomorrow, he is not here. We have other players and for me also it’s very important that I respect a lot the competition and Vitoria Guimaraes and also we have on Saturday another important match.
“Our focus is only those two matches and I want to say to you also my decision. I told them. First Xhaka and then the captains and it’s finished.
“For me, it’s finished, that moment and that issue and his future with us is coming for the next weeks or the next months and now we need to be focused for tomorrow.”
Xhaka was linked with Inter Milan in the summer and probably won’t be short of suitors should he make it clear he wants to leave in January.
While he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, he’s in the prime of his career, captains his country and could well suit a league that plays out at a slower pace.
Perhaps exit talk is a little premature. We’ll see, but it’s going to have to be one hell of a comeback for him to redeem himself in the eyes of the majority of fans.