Emmanuel Petit has criticised Granit Xhaka’s leadership qualities and questioned Unai Emery’s decision to name him Arsenal’s captain this season.
Xhaka’s recent performances for Arsenal have come under intense scrutiny, none more so than during Monday’s 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United when he was substituted with 20 minutes remaining.
After weeks of speculation, Emery finally announced that Xhaka had replaced Laurent Koscielny as Arsenal’s club captain last month after he was voted into the position by his teammates, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang named as vice-captain.
It was a decision that has baffled Petit and the former Arsenal midfielder suggested that 20-year-old Matteo Guendouzi would be more deserving of the armband given his all-action performances this term.
‘Can you imagine Patrick Vieira on the pitch on Monday night?’ he told Paddy Power. ‘He would have been shouting at his team-mates, asking them: “What the f*ck are you doing?” I don’t see that with Xhaka. I do with Guendouzi – he’s one of the few who shows he wants to win every game. He’s got a lion’s heart.
‘Matteo Guendouzi is relied upon a lot by Emery, and that’s because he’s showing anger on the pitch. He hates to lose games, you can see that he’s ready to fight for every single ball. He plays to his strengths and he does that well.
‘That’s more than you can say for some of the other midfielders. Can anyone tell me what is Xhaka’s best quality? I don’t know why he has been made captain. The leadership is absent.’
Emery opted to name a midfield three consisting of Xhaka, Guendouzi and Joe Willock against Sheffield United while there was no place again for Mesut Ozil in the matchday squad.
It was another decision that left Petit puzzled and the Frenchman again aimed a dig at Xhaka by suggesting that he and the other players selected were incapable of creating chances that Ozil or Dani Ceballos could have.
‘What’s going on with Mesut Ozil?’ he added. ‘Emery said last week that Mesut Ozil was ready to play. Yet he didn’t even make the bench. That left Arsenal without any quality to bring on. The players Emery picked to start in Sheffield – honestly, come on!
‘Were there really no other options? What about Dani Ceballos? He’s one of the few Arsenal players who can create something with his passing. I don’t want to focus on Granit Xhaka all the time but, well, show me something else!’