Xhaka’s airport issues, team dinner, Pires on Alexis

Xhaka's airport issues, team dinner, Pires on Alexis

Morning. It’s safe to say it has not been a good week for Granit Xhaka thus far. Sent off against Burnley on Sunday and subject to a mandatory four-game ban for his second straight red card of the season, he became involved in a rather strange story yesterday.

Apparently he was at Heathrow airport with a friend who wasn’t allowed on a flight because he was late. Xhaka then got embroiled in a row with British Airways staff and, according to reports, called the person in question a “f*cking white bitch”.

Police were called, he voluntarily spoke to them under caution, was not arrested, and they released a statement afterwards, saying:

Police were called at 19:29hrs on Monday, 23 January following an allegation that a member of staff had been racially abused at Heathrow Airport, Terminal Five.

The allegation was made by a third party. Officers attended and spoke with a man in his 20s. He was not arrested. He voluntarily attended a west London police station where he was interviewed under caution. Enquiries continue.

Now, while I absolutely deplore any kind of racism or racist abuse, I’m a little confused by this. I’m unsure if a white person can be racist to another white person by referencing their whiteness. I suppose when you bring somebody’s colour (or lack of?) into it in a somewhat pejorative manner, then you leave yourself open to accusations of that, but I’m genuinely unsure of what the rules are here.

It strikes me that being abusive to an airport worker who was likely just doing her job is the bigger issue here, and while we’ve all had our frustrations when travelling, you shouldn’t behave like that. It’s also worth pointing out that we only have these initial reports, and just one side of the story, so until such time as we have more it’s difficult to say what exactly has happened.

Accusations of racism are clearly very serious, and I don’t think we should take them lightly in any way. At the same time though, it’s one of those things that will stick, whether it’s true or not sadly, and that’s why I’d be inclined to wait for more details on this one. I’m also genuinely curious as to whether a white person, which Xhaka is regardless of his religion or parental ethnicity, can racially abuse another white person.

However, while it doesn’t reflect well on him after what happened on Sunday, let’s remember that footballers are people too, subject to the same mood swings and frustrations as the rest of us, and if you can say you’ve never looked back on your behaviour as a younger man or woman and regretted anything, you’re a better person than I am.

Arsenal have yet to make any official statement regarding the matter, so let’s see what else emerges regarding this before going full judge, jury and executioner.

Elsewhere, Xhaka looked in good form at a dinner date with almost all the other chaps, getting some cuddles of a lesser-spotted Yaya Sanogo along the way:

Mesut Ozil was not there because he’s in Sweden filming a commercial or something, while there was no sign of Mustafi for reasons unknown. Suggestions are he came with a flamethrower and was turned away from restaurant muttering under his breath about hammocks.

Still, it’s nice to see all the chaps out having a nice time together. All good friends and jolly good company, and all that. I know people scoff about selfies and all that, but in this crazy modern world we live in, that’s what people do and there’s nothing wrong with it. If they’re out having dinner together, it speaks to a nice camaraderie in the squad, and that’s something that can be beneficial on the pitch.

Meanwhile, dreamy legend Robert Pires has praised the size of Alexis Sanchez’s balls … after he scored that high-pressure penalty against Burnley last Sunday. He said:

“He doesn’t know what pressure is. You have to have balls to take penalties like Alexis.”

He also revealed he’d spoken to him about his future, and there wasn’t as much clarity on that as there is the enormity of his cojones:

I spoke to Alexis last week and asked about the renewal. He told me he didn’t know, that he only cared to play.

The renewal is not a subject for Alexis. He doesn’t know what is going to happen, he just wants to play and enjoy. All we want is for Alexis to remain at Arsenal. I hope he renews his contract because he is a wonderful player.

Alexis is the engine of the car. I hope he stays forever.

I remember Arsene Wenger describing Pires as ‘the oil in our engine’, which conjures up some images in relation to this story, but it’s easy to know what he means about Sanchez. He’s a multi-piston rocket powered hyper-space traction engine of a player, and I hope he stays too.

From the sounds of it though, all the renewal talk is between the club and Alexis’ agents etc. If they can be satisfied with the financial elements of it, they know how important he is to us and that he will definitely play as much football as he wants. They’ll probably insist on a clause that says he can’t be subbed unless we’re 6-0 up and his leg is about to fall off.

Let’s hope that agreement can be found. I don’t need to explain why.

Right, that’s that for today. For some extra reading, Anam’s tactics column looks at the role of Mesut Ozil in the 2-1 win over Burnley.

More from me tomorrow.

ps – Finally finally, the AST are carrying out a survey on safe standing, something I think would be brilliant for Arsenal and English football, so if you have a couple of minutes to fill it out, you’ll find it here.

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