Arsenal have “got it wrong” in handing their captain’s armband to Granit Xhaka, says Martin Keown, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a more suitable option for the role.
Unai Emery has opted to work with a leadership group during his reign at Emirates Stadium, with it the Spaniard’s preferred approach to have multiple candidates to skipper the side.
He has, however, allowed those in his squad to make a more permanent appointment, with a blind ballot having been held in north London .
Switzerland international midfielder Xhaka has got the nod, but Keown is not convinced that an inconsistent and temperamental performer is the best man for the job.
The former Gunners defender told talkSPORT : “This is a massive call and I think perhaps he [Emery] has got it wrong.
“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 added: “It’s a bold move from Emery and he better get it right.
“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 Manchester 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.”
While questioning the logic behind placing such trust in Xhaka, Keown is hoping that added responsibility will help to raise the 27-year-old’s game and see him become a worthy successor to some iconic captains before him.
“Within that dressing room, clearly, obviously, he’s a leader because that’s why they voted for him,” said Keown.
“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.”