Unai Emery has admitted that Granit Xhaka may never play for Arsenal again and that the possibility of selling the midfielder in January has been discussed.
The Switzerland international has not featured for the Gunners since telling the Emirates crowd to ‘f**k off ’ while he was being booed from the field having been substituted against Crystal Palace on October 27.
And Xhaka - who was stripped of the captaincy following the incident - will not be part of the squad that travels to Leicester City on Saturday afternoon, with Emery deciding to leave him out after Xhaka made it clear he still wasn’t ready to play .
The 27-year-old will link up with Switzerland over the international break, but Emery does not yet know if he will be part of his plans when he returns to England ahead of Arsenal’s game with Southampton later this month.
“I don’t know if he’s going to play again,” said Arsenal’s head coach. “If he is available in his mind to continue helping us and continuing defending the Arsenal shirt, I think time gives us that solution.
“If I decide he is in the group with us, if he is ready and 100 per cent in his mind to help us play with his quality, we know we need that quality and that player.
“It’s important now to stay with Granit. We are going to continue but the club knows how he is thinking and also how I am thinking about that circumstance.”
Emery’s frustrations over the Xhaka situation have now been exasperated by an injury to Dani Ceballos - with the Spanish midfielder set for three weeks on the sidelines due to the hamstring problem he suffered against Vitoria on Thursday night.
It’s left Arsenal's head coach without two midfielders ahead of what he has described as a must-win game at Leicester and with the festive season fast approaching, talks have taken place with the club hierarchy over potentially moving Xhaka on once the January transfer window opens.
“Yes, I asked that question,” admitted Emery. “The club knows the player's decision at the moment and my idea about that situation and the circumstances.
“We are now a little weaker without him in that position because we have one less player in that position.
“[At the moment] I am not thinking about that [selling him] because we are in November and we are going to play a lot of matches in November and December. We cannot change him in that two months.”
Arsenal head to Leicester on Saturday six points adrift of the Foxes and defeat could potentially see them enter the international break nine points off the top four.
Just one win in six games has increased the pressure on Emery, although the Spaniard is adamant he has received nothing but support from head of football Raul Sanellhi and the club’s heirachy.
But defeat at the King Power Stadium - where Arsenal have lost on their previous two visits - could see the club end the weekend as low as eighth in the Premier League and raise further questions about his future.
Despite all that, however, Emery insists he is not disappointed with how the season has started - especially when you factor in what has gone on off the pitch at Arsenal since the summer.
“I’m not really disappointed with our work,” he said. “I am being realistic because some circumstances did not help us to achieve best emotional balance because with that, comes best performance.
“First we are speaking about the captain's circumstances. If Laurent Koscielny was still here, the captain would be Koscielny and that would give us no problem.
“Then also some circumstances with some players - with Sead Kolasinac and with Mesut Ozil - then also circumstances that didn't help us with Xhaka.
“I think the supporters have seen that their team needs more to improve to achieve the best results. I can and I want to say to them, they must have patience and in some circumstances they did not help us, but we are trying to achieve the best emotional balance with the players.
“Saturday is a very good opportunity, a very difficult match, we know, we are going to prepare and we want to be one step ahead. We want to show our best performance and I am optimistic. But I also know that we need to be 100 per cent efficient.”