Emery defends Xhaka display despite conceding 'very disappointing' penalty against Spurs
The midfielder’s biggest contribution against Tottenham was a poor challenge, but the manager saw plenty of positives in his performance
Unai Emery insists Granit Xhaka played well for Arsenal against Tottenham even though he conceded a “very disappointing” penalty during the first half of Sunday’s 2-2 derby draw.
The Switzerland midfielder lunged into a challenge on Son Heung-min and got nowhere near the ball, allowing Harry Kane to double the lead from the spot following Christian Eriksen’s opener.
Xhaka was heavily criticised over the incident, even though Arsenal rallied in impressive style to fight back for a point through goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Emery, though, says there were more positive than negative aspects to the 26-year-old’s performance.
“In 90 minutes, I am very proud of his work,” said the former Valencia and Paris Saint-Germain boss. “Some mistakes we can have and I want to use [them] to progress and improve. There are more positive things collectively, individually and also with Xhaka for me.
“The penalty is really one action that is very disappointing. He worked very well. He played very well. If we won the match, maybe we’d speak about the mistakes less.”
Emery felt the Gunners deserved at least a share of the spoils for their second-half performance and was proud of the atmosphere created by the home fans as they chased a late winner.
“Obviously, after 2-0, we can be very proud of our response and the atmosphere we created and how our supporters pushed us after our goal to get the second goal and have chances to score the third,” he said.
“The result… we deserved more. Their movement, [in] the second half, we controlled better than the first. Tactically, the first goal is one mistake but because we played that action more with heart than head.
“We had two players trying to win the ball with Harry Kane – we needed one to cover. The second half, we did that work perfectly.
“With our supporters, we created a very good atmosphere. The game was amazing for football but, for us, it’s not enough.
“Really, I am very proud of our work, our players, our supporters.”
Arsenal are two points above Spurs in the Premier League table, having taken two wins, one draw and a defeat from their opening four matches of the season.