Granit Xhaka has revealed that Arsenal’s mauling by Chelsea in the Europa League final was met by a stony silence in the dressing room.
The Gunners went into Wednesday night’s game knowing it was win or bust in terms of the Champions League having thrown away their chance of a top-four finish when they ended their Premier League campaign with just one win in their last six games.
But again they came up short, with Eden Hazard inspiring Chelsea to victory in Baku – as the Blues ran riot in the second half to seal a crushing 4-1 victory.
It was a defeat which reduced Lucas Torreira and Petr Cech to tears, with Arsenal now having to face up to the realisation that they will be playing Europa League football for a third successive season.
But there was no immediate post-mortem after the game or any harsh words from Unai Emery. In fact, there was ‘nothing’ said at all, according to Xhaka.
“Him (Emery), the players, nobody speaks in the dressing room,” revealed the Switzerland international midfielder.
When asked why Emery had remained silent, Xhaka added: “I don’t know. He was disappointed of course.
“I think we know what we played. We know we lost the game. It is not about shouting. It is not about shouting everything if we lose.
“You can say a lot now but it is not the time to explain why and what happens. I think it was a big chance for us and we don’t take it.”
The manner of the defeat, following on from the disastrous end to the season in the Premier League which saw defeats against Everton, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester in the final seven games, has raised familiar questions about the mentality that runs through the Arsenal squad.
Fingers have once again been pointed at Mesut Ozil following another anonymous display, while Emery himself has come in for criticism due to the end-of-season collapse.
Xhaka – who said he was ‘not the right person’ to ask about whether the club had moved forward under Emery – insists, however, that Arsenal’s abject end to the campaign was not down to mentality issues.
“It happened because we lost the games,” he said. “It is not about physical or mental. I think we were ready. We trained every day and if you are not ready if you train every day you have to change your sport.
“I think we had a good season, if you take off the five last games in the Premier League. We have a second chance [against Chelsea] to come back and go to the Champions League but if you don’t take your chances, you will stay in the Europa League.
“We opened the game too fast in the second half. At 1-0, you still have 45 minutes to come back. We had chances as well but we made too many mistakes.
“After, with the individual class from Chelsea, they can change the game.”
Calls for a major rebuild at the Emirates have already started following the defeat in Baku.
Arsenal legend Martin Keown took aim at Ozil once again after the game, saying ‘something’s got to give’ in terms of the German playmaker.
“Ozil is your biggest player, and he cannot play away from home,” Keown said.
“They have Hazard, we had Ozil. He couldn’t get Aubameyang or Lacazette in the game.
“[It was] a system failure for Arsenal. It really magnifies the decline of Arsenal Football Club. It’s nowhere near the club it once was.”
Emery did hint after the game that changes would be made in the summer and that some players would be moved on as part of the reshuffle.
When asked whether he wanted the club to now show some ambition in the transfer market to help close the gap on those above them, Xhaka said: “I don’t know what happens, what is the plan of the club.
“It is not my decision to sign big players or small players. I don’t know what the plan is now.”
Quizzed on his own future and a possible move away, Xhaka added: “Me? I have a contract here.”