Arsenal Invincibles legend Martin Keown says Unai Emery has ‘got it wrong’ by making Granit Xhaka his club captain, telling talkSPORT Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would have been a better choice.
The Swiss midfielder has been given the Gunners armband permanently, following a vote from his team-mates.
Xhaka had been the club’s acting captain following the departures of Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey over the summer, and he will make his first outing as permanent skipper against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday.
Granit Xhaka is now the permanent Arsenal captain – and fans are not happy[/caption]
However, the choice has not been popular with fans who have been highly critical of Xhaka’s performances in Arsenal’s midfield.
And Keown has echoed supporters’ views, saying Xhaka should not have been given the armband as he should not be a guaranteed starting in Arsenal’s first XI.
“This is a massive call and I think perhaps he [Emery] has got it wrong,” the legendary former centre-back told talkSPORT on Friday.
“This is really going to divide the fans. There are times when Xhaka goes missing in midfield, he’s given penalties away… he must be an incredible character off the pitch!
“It’s surprising, particularly how he was booed off the pitch less than a week ago.
“It’s a brave decision by the manager, he’s picked him every time he’s available so he clearly believes in the player, but I’m surprised, I must say.
“You need to be sure the captain is going to be in the team and he’s on borrowed time. There are others in that group, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Dani Ceballos, who are starting to progress, so if Xhaka is still going to be a permanent fixture than I’m surprised by that.
“I would have gone for Aubameyang, he would have been a pretty good fit. It might have given him a little more extra responsibility. He’s doing fantastically well at the moment and he’s secure in the team, he’s a regular.”
Keown has also taken aim at Emery’s management and team selection, saying the blame will fall on him if his Xhaka gamble doesn’t pay off.
“It’s a bold move from Emery and he better get it right,” he continued.
“I was just reading the statistics about the number of shots the opposition have had at Arsenal’s goal this season, the number of unforced errors – Arsenal are the top of all these lists, and it’s because Emery is not getting the balance right with his team.
“He’s been in the job a year now and things are going to have to improve away from home. It’s a massive test on Monday [against Man United].
“If you get results, everybody stands by the decisions, but this is a massive call and I think perhaps he’s got it wrong.”
Speaking to talkSPORT earlier this month, the three-time Premier League blasted the Swiss’ defensive ability – ‘He is SO BAD at tackling!’ – and said he ‘does more damage than good’ on the pitch.
And the Invincible has told Xhaka the improvements he and all Arsenal fans will want to see in his game now he has been made captain.
On being voted skipper by his team-mates, Keown said: “Within that dressing room, clearly, obviously, he’s a leader because that’s why they voted for him.
“The players want him, but it’s interesting the manager couldn’t see that for himself and he needed to throw it to the players.
“We have to respect that, but really it’s about the performance on the pitch and I want more from him in midfield.
“I don’t want silly, crazy tackles, I want him to sit in front of the defence, I want to be picking out those diagonal passes, I want to see him talking to players, cajoling players and in their ears. I want to see those leadership skills on the pitch, not just in the dressing room. I haven’t seen that so far.
“The vote on confidence, the actual armband, can do big things for you, so I hope it does that for his game.”