Arsenal legend Paul Merson believes Xhaka was ‘hurt’ by boos leading to outburst

Arsenal legend Paul Merson is the latest former Gunners star to have his say on Granit Xhaka’s shocking outburst towards fans. Merson seems to sympathise with the midfielder.

Writing in his column for Sky Sports, Arsenal legend Paul Merson believes that Granit Xhaka was ‘hurt’ by vicious boos from the club’s fans before his ‘shocking’ behaviour towards them during the 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace.

The Switzerland international cupped his ear when being booed off the pitch, before appearing to tell supporters to ‘f*** off”. The star then ripped off his Arsenal shirt before storming downing the tunnel.

We haven’t seen a reaction like this from a Premier League player in some time. The incident is the biggest talking point in the football world right now.

Should Xhaka play for Arsenal ever again?

Here’s what the ‘Magic Man’ had to say on the incident:

“Xhaka’s behaviour was shocking but at the same time, he’s hurt. He’s the captain, he’s getting booed off the pitch, the fans are going mad and it’s the heat of the moment.”

“It’s not nice and no one wants to get booed off the pitch, I don’t care who you are.

“You could be the best player in the world and even Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi wouldn’t like to be booed off the pitch.”

“Looking back now, in the heat of the moment, you’re the captain and usually the last people to come off are the captains, then the crowd take it out on him.”

“If he could have that one moment back, he probably wouldn’t do it, but it’s heat of the moment stuff. I’m one of his biggest critics but he does care.”

“I’ve seen some people come off pitches and they don’t care, they fly off and run faster off the pitch than they did during the game.”

A whole host of Arsenal’s former stars have had their say on the incident recently, Martin Keown believes Emery is at fault for the club’s toxic atmosphere.

Considering the club’s worrying form as of late, this drama is the last thing that the team needs. Every player’s attention needs to be on football if the side are to come out of this poor spell.

Off-the-pitch sagas have contributed to the Gunners’ downfall on countless occasions in recent years. The club’s hierarchy need to resolve this matter as soon as possible.

Tags Granit Xhaka Paul Merson Unai Emery Xhaka


  1. It is obvious ,his reaction was because he was hurt . It is obvious that if he’s an intelligent man ,and I think he is ,then he regrets it .The horse is dead ,we can stop flogging it now.

    A little off topic though, I’d like to have a discussion with a few people here .

    Granit isn’t a very exciting player to watch . that’s for sure , but I’d just like to know what fans expect of him .I tend to watch the game with as little bias as possible .I don’t know about other fans ,but I am usually inclined to watch players who are heavily criticized more during a game. Over the last 3 or 4 games , I’ve watched Granit and Sokratis closely in everyone of our matches .(Sokratis will be for another day).I’ve noticed ,that the fouls have reduced . Infact in his last 4 appearances ,he’s changed a lot of what the fans wanted him to change.
    Looking at his pass stats ,He has averaged 58.3 successful passes per 90 mins at an accuracy of 86.5% off of 81.02 touches .The predictable excuse is going to be that he passes sideways and backwards ,well that’s a lie .
    5.34 average per 90 are long balls .It’s rare for one to pass a long ball back ,but I’d assume a long ball looks like the 2 played to Pepe on sunday
    19.53 are forward passes ,and 13.83 are final third entry passes .He’s actually forth this season in final third entry passes for arsenal, and third for forward passes only bettered by AMN (presumably because of the lower game count),Nacho Monreal and Calumn Chambers .

    The idea that he slows down the game can also be mathematically disproved .With him attempting 67.4 passes per game off of 81.02 touches ,it implies he basically passes after every one touch. Which would imply he uses one touch to control ,and the other to pass in most cases.

    I think attempting to compare him to a player like Ngolo Kante makes it appear as though his under performing .realistically ,they’ve never really played the same role, rather they play complementary roles to each other .I think he’s better suited being compared to someone like Jorghino or the like.
    All stats came from squawka , whoscored and my personal calculations.
    I’d like a constructive debate on all this COYG

    1. Little known fact ,Granit Xhaka (Mr Sideways and backwards) has played the highest number of final third entry passes for arsenal since he joined the club 1,313 ,more than double any other arsenal player who’s played in the same period.

      Second to him is Mesut Ozil 610

      1. Sorry Joe but your stupid statistics don’t mean nothing to me. I watch him every week, Do you? I wonder but as an ex footballer at a reasonable level I find his performances deplorable and brainless. I mean, how many defensive midfield players do you see insisting on taking corners. Although it’s taken the clueless Emery 18 months to finally relinquish Xhaka from his corner taking duties it shows you where both of their football brains lie. Emery out ASAP and take Xhaka with him.

    2. Add in the fact that he has our highest clearance and aerial duel success rate out of all our midfield and it goes to proves what I’ve always said, in that Xhaka isn’t actually a bad player and explains why Emery likes him deep in the midfield 🤷‍♂️

      He is a touch too slow both in moving about the pitch and with his thought in moving the ball at times imo. Both of which combine to make him ill suited to an aggressive press, which is commonplace in our league. Its also been made worse by the whole squad being under extra pressure.

      As much as I am all for giving Emery time, I also admit this is partly because of the choices he has made by having us sit deep but is also a product of the inadequacies of our backline forcing Xhaka to try and cover them so much (those inadequacies are also why Emery has had the team sat so deep imo)

      I also pay particular attention to those who receive the most criticism and have noticed that they are all slowly ironing out some of the errors in their game, yet many fans either are too angry to notice or choose to ignore 🤷‍♂️

      All in all great post Joe 👏

    3. @Joe

      I enjoyed your post, and there were some stats that were very interesting, although according to other stats, I think Xhaka has given more fouls away than anyone else this season, and often makes key errors leading to goals (although I have noticed a slight improvement in key errors this season). Your stats only focus 3/4 areas, which is not enough information to properly make an assessment. If you’re going to base an argument on stats, then you need to look at all the stats.

      However, no stat can compare to consistently watching someone with your own eyes. In regards to experienced starters, Xhaka has been either our worst, or one of our worst players, during his time at Arsenal. I do have huge sympathy though, as I have no idea why Emery, and Wenger play(ed) him as our deepest midfielder. Even someone which little footballing knowledge can see this is a mistake. Xhaka cannot press, or make recovery runs because of his lack of pace. He also doesn’t have the defensive awareness, and mindset for that position. He’s a deep laying playmaker, and needs a DM next to, or just behind him.

      I have also noticed a slight improvement from him lately, but it’s nowhere near enough. 3/4 games are not going change my opinion of what I have seen over the last 3/4 years from him. Before he even showed the massive disrespect to fans at the weekend, I have been very disappointed with some of his post match comments. Almost calling out his own team mates, whilst deflecting any blame upon himself.

      These comments, and what we saw against Palace, are not the actions of a leader, and a person with a strong mentality. They seem more petulant than anything. Based on these actions, and his consistently poor performances, he should never captain, or even play for us again. I am stunned he has lasted this long, given what we’ve all seen over his time at the club.

      1. You are right about Xhaka committing multiple infringements
        22 so far, but doesn’t that sort of come with the territory? I however think he should try and win the ball more fairly . He however hasn’t recorded an error leading to a goal this season. For someone who led the premier league chats since he arrived, I think that is progress. Unai started last season with a Xhaka – Guendouzi midfield, and a few games later changed to Torreira. I think the two complemented each other perfectly. One did the running and tackling, while the other did the passing. I like Guendouzi, but I think we should go back to how things were

    4. Xhaka’s high forward stats are deceiving. A deep lying playmaker or a DM has to pass forward to the players in front of him, therefore most of them have high forward stats, such as Jorginho, Fernandinho, Fabinho, etc

      Xhaka also tends to pass after every one touch, similar to Ozil. These passes/ touches rates made them look like quick thinkers, but watch how predictable and how safe/ risk-free those passes really are

      Unlike good playmakers such as Cazorla and Iniesta, Xhaka is bad in tight spaces and unable to hold the ball for more than three touches. The senior Gunners such as Mustafi have some incredible yet deceiving statistics, but we can watch their limitations in the field

      1. Hey gotanidea, hope you are OK, you actually attracted me to do the research. Let’s start with the question again, what are you expecting of Xhaka?

        In a previous article, you tried to compare his set piece skill to Jununiho and Beckham, comparing his play making abilities to Carzola and Iniesta, I’ve seen people compare his tackling stats to Fernandhino and Kante. Now comparing him to the former is actually fair as they’ve played the same position since pep joined city, but you’ll realize, on average, his stats will bloat because unlike Xhaka, he doesn’t really play a consistent run of games in the defensive mid position. Most teams have a defensive mid as their most accurate passer and that’s what xhaka is for us. How many players actually pass like Xhaka, Tackle like kante, dribble like Carzola and deliver set pieces like Jununiho ?if you know this guy, I’d love to watch him. Xhaka isn’t a ballon do’r material player, but in this shambles of bad form we’re in, I don’t think I’d say he’s the worst performing player at the moment.

    5. From Giroud to Ramsey to mustafi now to Xhaka, we are becoming a booing fans, this negative act from our fans will do us more harm than good, can you see how emotional Toriera reacted.bcos he knows it may be his own turn tomorrow. We unknowingly use our hands to kill the conference of our own players by booing them. We must agree that arsenal problem right now is more than just a player. Let’s ask the manager what is going on.

    6. @Joe, I salute you for your objective analysis and you are correct regarding his forward passes. In fact his number of passes to the opposition third is among the best in PL.
      I think it’s the tactics that makes Xhaka looks bad. We don’t have any problems entering the opposition’s third, but how about our performance in that third? Last year or so, Ozil got a lot of stick but he still topped the number of successful passes in the final third. Now, his replacement Ceballos tend to play deeper, almost side to side with Xhaka. They consistently bring the ball to the opposition’s third, but no one to deliver the final ball, hence the progressive passes amount to nothing and they both look bad.
      Defensively, I think the problem is in the pairing. Despite his qualities, Mateo is slow. I saw in one preseason game he struggled to cover an empty space vacated by the overlapping fullback. He is similar to Xhaka in that regard. No problem if we play deep, but when we play high they tend to be caught a lot. Torreira is fast and he will bring balance to the midfield area. Therefore IMO Emery should field Xhaka-Torreira or Guenduozi-Torreira, the latter pairing is preferable because Guenduozi is in fine form lately.

  2. No they shouldn’t at all! I believe we ‘Fans’ are cool with the Thrilling sagas.
    No matter what.. Xhaka” deserves the boos! A whole lotta it.
    Simple and Short!

  3. I don’t believe Xhaka is as bad as many think. His passing is excellent but that’s pretty much it. He shouldn’t be starting for us over Torreira, Guendouzi, and Ceballos

    That said. This topic has been done to death. Too many articles on this topic

  4. If Emery would have dropped Xhaka when most supporters saw his lack of form this would not of happened. There is nothing worse than a lack of wisdom and Emery cannot see his own errors. He won’t last. Nor will Xhaka.

  5. Typical of Chelsea fan Merson to side with Xhaka, he’s never said a good thing about Arsenal since Arsene Wenger deemed him not good enough for the club and the football he wanted to play and I agreed with him. So it comes as no surprise after Xhaka telling the fans to F*** off that Merson thought he was hurt and hard done by. Well let me tell Merse, I was hurt when he cost us Champions League football last season, I’m also hurt by the poor performances we get from him week after week and by the amount of goals he gives away. Every player that goes past him he blatantly pulls them back as if nobody’s watching. For the money we paid for him, he’s the worst player to play for our club in the last 30 years. Getting back to Merson, I always thought he was no better than average, even in his best days under George Graham. Magic Man? HA HA, joke of the century.

    1. Exactly KR. Xhaka commits a lot of stupid fouls both with his hands and feet even when very unnecessary. The fans do what fans do – cheer you when you do well and boo when they are not happy either with you or with what is going on. A player has no right to react disrespectful to their face because he who pays the piper calls the tune. Players are paid handsomely so they should be able to yield and absorb negative displays by the fans.

      1. so fans can abuse a player and a player cannot react?..because he is a robot?..arsenal fans are getting worse yearly

        1. My friend don’t put words into our mouth. We are talking about booing by the fans to show their displeasure, not abuse. There is a big difference between booing and abusing.

          1. Very true, the fans booed him, in fact he abused us with the F word (if he said it)
            CR7 / Bale / Pogba do get the boos, they turn around and come back stronger. This man is not a professional footballer, just a hot head. Neither has he apologized till date. Very poor on Unai to play a player low on confidence when Lucas was avaliable. Those mentioning Giroud, please note that he got the boos for the errors, was warmly welcomed back even after joining CFC.

        2. A player should not react because he’s paid to be a professional fans are not
          Give fans £100,000 a week and tell them behave I’m sure they would

  6. All this is void as talk sport this morning saying Xhaka is t ready to apologise to the club yet and emery wants him to get emotional support.
    Fact you lose the fans you are gone
    When we get lost the connection with the fans he was let go, both emery and Xhaka don’t have the years of loyalty Wenger gained
    Both are on borrowed time
    Also joe you can preach as many stats as you like Mustafi was better than VVD in stats
    However you cannot get away from the fact that Xhaka is a very average player

    1. The one thing that made mustafi worse than VVD was errors leading to shots and goals. It’s been general knowledge here that this season he’s played well, particularly because we’ve not seen any errors from him. All that research was meant to show one thing. Players are putting in a shift to improve. If on individual level they were getting worse, then we’d be well suited in not supporting them but if they are trying to improve, then let’s support them. Build them up. Let’s win games together. Tell me you didn’t celebrate when Mustafi scored against the Spurs last season, when Xhaka sent a screamer past DeGea, when Kolasinac kept raiding that left flank time and again. Whether fan favourite or not, we all have a good time when a player produces a good performance and therefore, if they are on the way there, if Xhaka and Mustafi are cutting out the errors, if Pepe is beginning to score, I think we should lift the team up and not tear them down.

      1. Joe, Mustafi quietly bore the brunt of the boos, did some introspection and game back stronger this season. Has not done anything wrong yet. It was even more worse for Mustafi as he was told that he could move. Mustafi should be a role model for Xhaka. I did not see Mustafi throwing tantrums at the fans, coach or club. Mustafi has become a better player, good for the player, good for the club.

        1. Kenny, I think you’re a bit harsh on Merson as a footballer with the Arsenal. The teams he played in won a bit. Considering his dependency and gambling problems, he still won the best player for his new club in his first season.

          1. Sorry OG, never a fan of Merson, even less so since he’s been a pundit and he’s crying, I happen to know from first hand knowledge, on live television that got him his job with Sky television had nothing to do with drugs, it was because he lost his money gambling. Well if you don’t like losing don’t bet.

  7. Exactly, there is a great difference between booing and abusing. Fans are not abusing Xhaka, but booing is showing displeasure at the the players performance. How can fans be happy when the player commits repeated errors, shows lack of energy and enthusiasm, shows lack of discipline, shows lack of respect for fans and is our Captain? Any decent gunner fan who has Arsenal in his heart will never like it. Either Xhaka is played out of position, given wrong instructions or is simply disinterested, I don’t know what I know is that unless he and Emery show significant signs of change which is reflected on performances on the pitch(not backwater discussions) Arsenal will be in deep trouble and even 4th place will soon be out of sight, the way Chelsea and Leicester are playing. We are the Arsenal and should be showing the world what we are capable of and matters on the pitch like selection, formation, tactics etc. are more important than matters of an individual persons lack of interest and ego and indiscipline. The Board and concerned authorities should take all possible action to immediately stem the rot or else it will be too late and will leave genuine gunner fans upset. We have got Liverpool, Wolves and Leicester coming, so no time for cribbing and crying, time for action asap.

  8. There are three aspect to Xhaka’s incident, the first is throwing the armband on the ground when less effort would have been used to hand it over respectfully to Aubameyang. Was he mad at his team mate too? The second is cupping his ears and signalling with his hands for the fans to be more louder and then telling them to f*ck off, that is him being upset with the fans. That I can understand. Then removing the shirt and what appears to be him tossing it can only mean he is fed up with the club in which case the best way is for them to part ways. Xhaka is not a bad player, though not the best in his position at the club at the moment. I believe Xhaka, Guendouzi and Willock should be battling for the same position which is to play alongside a proper DM. For a balanced midfied we therefore need a playmaker of which Ceballos is not a proper playmaker. That leaves us with Ozil as the only proper playmaker. If Emery knew he wasn’t gonna use Ozil then he should have brought in a proper playmaker. There was a talk of Fosberg from RB Leipzig.

  9. Nicely done Joe, you handled yourself well and there’s definitely some food for thought. There was obv worse player performances out on that pitch when Xhaka got sarcastically cheered before being booed for sarcastically hitting back by cupping the ears.

    Chambers springs to mind, he had a dreadful game though the winner should’ve stood and if anyone was fouled it was Chambers, but he was at sea down that flank defensively. The forwards had a poor game too, Pepe wasted a lot of opportunities in good space/area by trying to much or not finding an easy solution. They had little ammo some say, our forwards, but there are three of them, so that excuse doesn’t hold as they need to work things between each other, and Ceballos Chambers Tierney were trying to support them. Tierney had a low key game, but he didn’t do much wrong, but didn’t do too much right. Luiz, only for his goal he had a really poor game, he should have done better for that equalizer but he turned his back on it for a second, did not read situation well. Xhaka didn’t have what you’d call a good game, but he got an assist and wasn’t the worst one out there, the danger was out the other wing, caused us trouble, and going forward we looked off the pace.

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