Emery praises Xhaka on Arsenal return despite Europa League defeat

Granit Xhaka Arsenal 2019-20
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The Switzerland midfielder was starting for the first time since his angry outburst toward fans in October

Unai Emery praised the performance of Granit Xhaka after he started in Arsenal’s 2-1 Europa League defeat at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Swiss midfielder was starting for the first time since his angry reaction towards Gunners’ fans having been substituted against Crystal Palace in October. While he sustained a blow to his ankle during the game, he soldiered on to complete the 90 minutes.

Frankfurt had lost their last three games in all competitions, their most recent win being the 5-1 demolition of Bayern Munich which saw Niko Kovac sacked by the Bundesliga giants.

While Emery wasn't happy with the result on Thursday, he was impressed by the performance of a player, some thought would never play for the club again. 

"Xhaka wanted to continue playing,” Emery told BT Sport.

“His match today was good and he helped the team. I am being positive but I'm also realistic and we lost against a good opponent.

“We have improved from our last match and we are still first and have the opportunity to qualify, but we missed the opportunity tonight.

"We showed an improvement in the first half and we had a lot of opportunities to score but we did not take them.

“The first five or ten minutes of the second half were good but then we lost control for 15 minutes and we could not change the result. We tried to come back but we did not create any big opportunities to score."

Unai Emery Arsenal 2019-20

Only a smattering of Arsenal fans turned up for the match, with huge swathes of empty seats around the stadium.

Former Gunners defender Martin Keown said fans had ‘voted with their feet’ by staying away, and blasted Emery’s substitutions. Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe remained on the bench as Arsenal failed to mount a comeback, with Lucas Torreria, Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil brought on instead.

"We had some injuries and we needed to change David Luiz and then we had a problem with [Shkodran] Mustafi,” Emery explained.

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"They [the fans] helped the players and they helped Granit Xhaka. At the last moment they were angry."

Arsenal will still be able to claim qualification from Group F with a draw against Standard Liege on December 12, and would finish in top spot with a win.

Before then, they face Premier League games involving Norwich, Brighton and West Ham.