The decision to replace Granit Xhaka as Arsenal captain has divided opinion in the dressing room due to new skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s relationship with YouTube channel AFTV.
After being booed as he walked off the pitch during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last month, Xhaka is alleged to have told the Arsenal fans to ‘f*** off’ before he stripped off his shirt and stormed down the tunnel.
The Switzerland international has not featured for the Gunners since that incident, missing the Carabao Cup loss to Liverpool, draws with Wolves and Vitoria and Saturday’s loss at Leicester.
He was also removed from his role as captain, with Unai Emery deciding to give Aubameyang – previously one of the leadership group – the armband.
And, according to The Athletic, a number of Xhaka’s team-mates feel he has been ‘thrown under the bus’, while Emery has also appeared to suggest the midfielder could have played his last game for the club.
Emery said last week: “I spoke with him on Tuesday for how he is feeling now and his mind because he is training well, but he said to me he can’t play. We are going to wait.”
Pushed on whether Xhaka may never play for Arsenal again, he added: “As a coach I have a responsibility for the team. We need a player like Granit Xhaka.
“But also, I don’t know if he’s going to play again. I don’t know, because if he is available in his mind to continue helping us and continuing defending the Arsenal shirt, I think time is giving us that solution.
“And then, if I decide he is in the group with us, if he is ready and 100 per cent in his mind with the decision to help us and to play with his quality helping us. Because we know we need that quality and that player.”
Emery has named Aubameyang as his captain, but while the Gabon star is undeniably the most important player on the pitch, scoring 50 times in 78 matches, the report claims his actions away from it are said to have irritated a number of the squad.
Many insiders feel his affiliation with YouTube channel AFTV (formerly known as ArsenalFanTV) is a way of making himself immune to criticism, with the club feeling the content has helped to increase negativity towards Arsenal and its players.
Aubameyang has liked a number of controversial Instagram posts from the channel’s account – including one calling for Emery to be sacked.
The former Borussia Dortmund forward is also said to have invited Troopz, who is one of AFTV’s biggest contributors, to watch games from his executive box.