The atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium will be “toxic” next time Granit Xhaka is picked by Unai Emery unless he apologises to Arsenal fans, according to Alan Shearer.
The 27-year-old told Gunners’ supporters to “f*** off” as they reacted to his substitution during Sunday’s 2-2 Premier League draw at home to Crystal Palace.
The Gunners had flown out of the blocks and were two goals ahead inside 10 minutes as defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz struck 106 seconds apart.
However, Palace would leave the Emirates Stadium with a point as Luka Milivojevic converted a penalty awarded by the video assistant referee after Wilfried Zaha had initially been booked for diving, with Jordan Ayew’s second-half header pegging Arsenal back.
But the talking point came after 61 minutes as Xhaka, a divisive figure among Arsenal supporters, was substituted for Bukayo Saka.
Xhaka’s withdrawal was initially greeted by large cheers, which soon turned to jeers as he took his time to leave the pitch despite the score being level.
He reacted by waving his arms, cupping his ears and mouthing expletives as he pushed away a handshake from Emery, took off his shirt and headed straight down the tunnel.
“I do not know how Granit Xhaka comes back from this,” Shearer wrote in The Sun. “It will be toxic at Arsenal if Unai Emery picks him again and the player needs to come out and apologise sharpish to the fans.
“No one expects Xhaka to be pleased when your own fans are cheering when you’re being substituted. But, as captain, you just cannot react to your fans in the way he did.
“There is no way back for Xhaka unless he apologises. The longer he leaves it, the bigger a mistake the incident will turn out to be.
“When supporters have a go at you like that, it is because they are not happy — but he is the team’s captain. So you cannot react like that, telling the fans what to do in that language.
“And you cannot rip your shirt off and storm off the pitch like that, either. It’s not just the language the Switzerland international used.
“He cupped his hand to his ear while walking off and could not get his shirt off quick enough. Whatever you think of the fans, they are the ones that pay their money.
“They are the ones who buy season tickets and come and support you week in, week out. Like it or not, supporters are entitled to an opinion.”