The Gunners goalkeeper says the club’s skipper still has the support of his team-mates following his spat with the fans at the weekend
Emiliano Martinez says the Arsenal squad were desperate to win Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie at Liverpool for Granit Xhaka and insists that they remain fully behind their under-fire skipper.
Despite pressure from above, Xhaka has yet to apologise for telling the Emirates crowd to “f**k off’ as they jeered him from the field while being substituted during last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
Unai Emery, head of football Raul Sanllehi and technical director Edu have all urged the midfielder to say sorry for his reaction, with Emery publicly stating that an apology is needed.
But, despite being left ‘devastated’ by the incident, Xhaka has remained silent – with sources telling Goal that he does not feel the need to apologise having endured the brunt of abuse from supporters for some time now.
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And Martinez – who was in goal as Arsenal exited the Carabao Cup at Liverpool on Wednesday night – insists the 27-year-old was at the forefront of the players’ minds during the fourth round tie.
“He’s a great leader for us and we support him all the way,” said the Argentine keeper. “We wanted to win this game for him and for Arsenal.
“He’s devastated because he’s got a good family and a good heart. He loves the club. When someone goes through that we have to support him. We are together.
“The manager decides if he’s captain or not but for us as a group we support him all the way.”
The abuse that Xhaka received from the crowd while being substituted at the weekend has had a significant impact within the changing room at the Emirates.
Lucas Torreira was pictured in tears in the immediate aftermath of the incident, while a number of senior players visited their captain’s house later that evening to offer their support.
And Martinez, who was sitting on the bench as the drama unfolded, admits it was difficult to witness.
“It was a shock,” he said. “We know how much he [Xhaka] cares about the club. Everyone got emotional.
“We were 2-2 and the fans wanted to win the game, it was a bit nervous in the stadium. If he does it [gets substituted] again he won’t think about that, he’ll come off quick. We support him all the way and we’ll get through this.”
Xhaka was not involved as Arsenal were beaten 5-4 on penalties at Anfield on Wednesday following a dramatic 5-5 draw after 90 minutes.
The midfielder remained in London, with Emery fielding a much-changed team against Liverpool which included Mesut Ozil, who was handed his first start in five weeks.
Three times Arsenal led during the game, but on each occasion they were pegged back – with Divock Origi striking deep into stoppage time to take the game to penalties.
It means Emery’s side have won just one of their last five domestic games and Martinez admits defeat was tough to take.
“Before the game, everyone was saying we were together and were going to get through this,” he said. “We thought ‘get a good win and get the confidence back’. But it wasn’t our night.
“It was one of those games where everything goes in. We couldn’t hold it long enough. It was 3-1 and we thought ‘ok we’ll go in 3-1 at half-time’ but we conceded in the last minute of the first half. Then it was 4-2 and after five minutes we conceded another one.
“Then it was 4-4 and Joe [Willock] scored an incredible goal. We thought it was done and again it’s a cross into the box, Matteo [Guendouzi] couldn’t get the header and it deflects off his back and goes in in the last minute.
“Penalties are just about luck and it was not my night. Only guessing one side was very devastating. It’s something I’m really strong at. It wasn’t my night.”
Despite exiting the competition, however, Arsenal were cheered from the pitch by the 6,000 fans who had made the journey up from London to watch the cup tie.
“They showed they love us and support us,” added Martinez. “I was devastated not to go through for the fans who came to the game. We’re sorry to let them down but on Saturday we’re going to make things right.”