Granit Xhaka’s message to Sead Kolasinac after his mistake says a lot about ex-captain

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Arsenal were at their most calamitous before Dani Ceballos saved the day with a late winner in the FA Cup on Sunday.

The Gunners had been leading Sheffield United in the quarter-final of the cup competition from the 25 minute-mark.

But they conceded three minutes before the end following a defensive mishap.

Sead Kolasinac was attempting to clear a long throw into the box but panicked, blasted the ball against Shkodran Mustafi and into the path of Blades forward David McGoldrick to score.

The mistake summed up Arsenal’s defensive deficiencies of late and highlighted just how difficult the job is facing Mikel Arteta.

He reflected on this on BT Sport after the match, which the Gunners went on to win thanks to a very late Ceballos goal.

Arteta said: “We still have a massive gap to fill in, we have to improve in many departments a lot. We have to respect the process, it’s been really difficult, with the stop and start and stop and start and stop and start, but we will get it right.

“I am convinced of that. We need a little bit of time, that’s all.”

Pundits are in agreement that Arsenal lack a leader in the dressing room.

Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon recently touched on this when discussing Matteo Guendouzi – a promising youngster screaming out for some direction from an experienced head.

“He is a talented boy but, unfortunately for him, he has got his chance in a team that has not really got a lot of leaders on the pitch,” said Dixon.

“If you picked Guendouzi out of the team now and stuck him next to Patrick Vieira, he would be a totally different player because he would be led around the pitch and told where to go.”

When Unai Emery was in charge at Arsenal, he had a pool of five captains: Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny.

But this turned out to be a disaster as Ramsey, Cech and Koscielny left the club.

Emery then started having problems with Ozil’s application – a problem Arteta has clearly inherited – with the German being left out of his squad on occasion.

This left Xhaka as Emery’s out and out captain, but an ugly clash with the fans during a defeat by Crystal Palace saw him lose the armband.

Arteta has done away with the pool system, and has made Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the new Arsenal captain.

But the Gabon international isn’t happy at the club at the moment. He’s stalling on signing a new contract, and, as a result, doesn’t appear to be projecting leadership on a team that clearly needs it.

On Sunday, Alexandre Lacazette was named captain against the Blades.

And when the Frenchman was subbed off he handed the armband to a man who used to wear it: Xhaka.

The Swiss midfielder had a good game for the Gunners, but it was his actions following the final whistle that caught the eye.

The details of the conversation are not known, but Xhaka was seen pulling Kolasinac and goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez over to one side for a chat.

It seems he wanted to get the bottom of the confusion that led to the goal to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again.

Photographers snapped both players explaining their side of the story before the trio made their way back to the changing room.

 It was a very brief exchange, and it’s not going to solve all Arsenal’s problems.

But the intention from Xhaka is a positive one where Arteta is concerned; the more experienced players he can get demanding perfection from the team, the easier his job will become.

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