Gary Neville hit out at Granit Xhaka after the Arsenal midfielder’s incredible rant in the wake of their 2-0 defeat to Newcastle.
The Gunners ceded control of Champions League qualification to Tottenham on a truly dismal night in the north east. Arsenal produced arguably their worst performance of the season on a night when the stakes were so high.
A Ben White own goal put Newcastle in front after the break, with Bruno Guimaraes wrapping up all three points late on.
Arsenal now sit two points behind bitter rivals Tottenham in fourth with both having just one game to play. Mikel Arteta’s side now require a favour from already-relegated Norwich City on final day.
Arteta’s post-match interview was eye-catching, though even his words were blown out of the water by Granit Xhaka.
In a remarkable rant to both Sky Sports and the BBC, Xhaka insisted the players simply did not do what Arteta and his staff ordered.
And when the subject of inexperience came up, Xhaka seemingly took aim at some of the club’s younger stars.
“It’s difficult to find the right words,” Xhaka told Sky Sports on Monday Night Football. “From the first minute to the 90th we didn’t deserve to be on the pitch.
“I can’t explain to you why. We didn’t do what the game plan was, not listening to the coach.What happened was a disaster performance.
“You don’t deserve to play Champions League or even Europa League. It’s very hard to take it at the moment. I don’t know why we’re not doing what the coach is asking for us.”
People need balls to play for Arsenal – Xhaka
When interviewer Patrick Davidson asked if inexperience was a factor in what has consistently been the league’s youngest squad by average age all campaign, Xhaka replied: “If someone isn’t ready for this game, stay at home.
“It doesn’t matter your age. If you’re nervous, stay on the bench or stay at home.
“You need people to have the balls to come here and play. It’s one of the most important games for us. We’re feeling very disappointed for the people who came over here. Sorry to them [fans], I don’t have any other words.
“The dressing room is very quiet. The game plan was totally different to what we did over 90 minutes. We’re waiting for six years [Champions League qualification]. We had everything in our hands. We looked like we were in the position where Newcastle are and they were where we are.”
MNF pundit Gary Neville was visibly taken aback by Xhaka’s comments in the Sky studio. After taking a moment to digest what he’d heard, Neville fired back.
“I think I heard him say, ‘stay at home if you haven’t got the balls’,” said Neville (via the Mirror). “So he’s obviously having a go at people in his dressing room.
“I don’t know who he’s having a go at, I hope he wasn’t having a go at the younger players…him?
“I tell you what he’s been a disgrace at times over the last four or five years, getting sent off recklessly. He’s left it up in the air there, that was nothing there.”