Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has played down any potential controversy after Granit Xhaka refused to wear the captain’s armband during Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Brentford in the Premier League.
Despite conceding a late consolation goal, the Gunners enjoyed a relatively drama-free afternoon at the Emirates as strikes from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka saw the north Londoners move one point off fourth place with two games in hand.
But there was a bizarre incident late in the match when Alexandre Lacazette – who has unofficially taken over the captaincy role ever since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was banished from the squad – was subbed off.
Arteta decided to freshen up his attack in the final embers and took off Lacazette in the 84th minute, who handed the armband to replacement Eddie Nketiah, and the forward made a beeline to Xhaka to pass the armband on.
Nketiah briefly wore the armband himself while play resumed but looked extremely uncomfortable before running over to Kieran Tierney in the next break of play to hand over the armband.
It was a strange moment on an otherwise excellent afternoon for the Gunners and Arteta has played down its significance, revealing that Tierney is now ahead of former skipper Xhaka in the captaincy pecking order and Nketiah simply got confused.
Asked why Xhaka refused the armband, Arteta told Sky Sports afterwards: ‘Because it was for Kieran. Kieran was the next in line and that’s the reason why.’
Probed further on whether Nketiah was given the wrong instruction, Arteta added: ‘Maybe Eddie didn’t pick it up and Granit told him he should have to give it to Kieran. That’s it.’
Arsenal dominated much of Saturday’s match but, after having several penalty shouts turned down, went into half-time with the scores tied.
But Smith Rowe scored a wonderful individual goal to put the hosts ahead minutes after the restart before Saka added a second and Arteta was very pleased with the performance.
He said: ‘I think we played really well and created so many chances and shots and attempts on goal in the first half, but we didn’t score a goal. In the Premier League you’ve got to put those chances away you want to win.
‘We came in the second half really convincing, we scored a goal and then it was a matter of killing the game. Overall I think we should be happy with the result and the performance.’